New Players Theatre, London WC2
I have a feeling that William Finn’s return to London (his previous West End show was in 1987) will go largely unnoticed. For a start, the venue is not so much off the beaten track as under it, and every so often a train pulling into or out of Charing Cross thunders overhead. Then there is the American composer’s very particular brand of music, written for characters who are generally self-obsessed, always neurotic, usually gay, invariably from New York and frequently Jewish.
But to go unnoticed would be far less than this revue — directed for this London version by Andrew MacBean — deserves. There are moments when the evening soars with terrific singing by the six-strong, high-quality cast including, Frances (Les Mis) Ruffelle, Sally Anne Triplett and the tender-voiced Ian Watkins (formerly H in the band Steps). Though Finn’s songs can be emotionally overwrought, they often stand as perfectly constructed character studies. Four Jews in a Room Bitching, for example, is exactly what it says on the tin.
Louise Dearman performs the joyfully irreverent Passover (about “the feast with no yeast”) with quite stunning wit and comic timing. Finn’s lyrics can be brave. He has the guts to rhyme Israeli with ukulele. But what counts is that the evening is brimful of lyrical and melodic inventiveness that London audiences can normally experience only in New York.
Tel: 08444 77 1000