Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Liver Bird Sang - opening night

Wendy and I attended the opening night of A Liver Bird Sang this evening.

This operatic production, funded on a shoe-string because Capital of Culture wouldn't support it, was a true Liverpool musical production.

The cast all performed for free, and some of them, like the magnificent Nick Hardy, and highly talented Jane Hamlet, Julie Davitt and Valerie Watts must surely have been professionals from time to time.

It is the story of the revival of a Liverpool night club - the Scouse 'Ouse, and a love story between Ella McCabe, cabaret singer in the club and Matt Lightfoot, who wants to buy the club. The whole set against a backdrop of class differences and the striving of the working classes of Old Swan to achieve through education.

The music is by Schubert, arranged beautifully by Geoff Lavelle, with lyrics by John Dixon.

The opening song and regular refrain "The City passes by" was stunning, although there were so many actors performing in this busy city scene that it was hard to catch all of the action at the same time. We got used to the bustle in each scene though and it allowed for some wonderful pastiches and bursts of comic genius from the young Ashley Guidera in terrific form as the nightclub bouncer.

It was a very catchy refrain, and I enjoyed the way that John played with the lyrics to suit each scene.

"The city passes by, winds blow, gulls fly too high for troubles we all know down here below" - we all knew the words by the end and I could hear someone softly singing it behind me.

Jane Hamlet with the most beautiful red hair was fantastic as Ella and remained unfazed even when she knocked over the microphone and broke it. She was rushing on and off stage to change into some great cocktail outfits and yet still found the breath to keep singing. Her "Buns of Steel" was very good.

I dont know any opera singers in Liverpool, other than Carol next door, and she was not in the cast, I must drop her a note to ensure she goes to see the show before it closes. But Nick Hardy must clearly be someone that is familiar to Liverpool audiences even if I had never seen him before. He was magnificent, clearly the ace in the pack. "All in the Mind" stopped the show, Bravo!

I enjoyed "Killarney Road" with Julie Davitt, playing a woman studying for her PHD in Genetics and reminiscing about her ordinary working class background in a street in Old Swan.

All the clubbers - the WAGS, were very convincing actresses as well as good singers. The Liverpool Lou's - Stephanie Guidera (sister of Ashley, their proud Mum stopped for a chat with us in the interval) and Sabrina Longo were as beautiful and as stylish as any amount of Victoria Beckham's but sang a thousand times better. Some real stars of the future there.

The best song of all though was the Irish jig, "Back in the City of Liverpool" - with the lyric "The Capital City of Ireland is Liverpool, the capital of the world!" It had everyone clapping and dancing in their seats, I wonder if they are going to make some DVDs, I would love to hear that again.

I spotted Phil Hayes, Picket manager in a cameo role, and then again in the chorus for the finale, and he was clearly having a great time too. All praise to him for trying such a different kind of performance in his club.

First song apart, it was a bit slow to get going and it went on a long time - from 7.30 until 11.00 with only a fairly short break, but we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Anyway, tickets are £10 and you can pay on the door.

Do go - the Culture Company might have scorned this operatic musical for Liverpool 08but we the public know a good thing when we see it.


Anonymous said...

Worth pointing out that it is at The Picket until the 5th!

Sharon, Everton said...

Sounds great, another event the culture club wouldn't support, probably 'not edgy enogh'

Louise Baldock said...

I got a demo CD in the post on Saturday morning, with some of the wonderful songs on. And a little note from Joyce Schofield, the publicity organiser, thanking me for the review.

Joyce, our thanks are due to you, not the other way round. Thanks for letting us know about the show, which we really enjoyed and thanks for being so thoughtful as to send the CD, I am, as they say in Liverpool "made up" with it.

Anonymous said...

i didnt think any of the music sounded as though it was taken from schuberts music, i thought the venue was far too small...but fair enough it wasn't funded, i also thought it went on far too long and was very unrehearsed. I didnt agree with the tickets being £10..as you could go to the Liverpool Empire Theatre and watch professionals for £10. Nick Hardy was at his usual best and did stop the show.. Along with Jame hamlet who was also extremely good. I think this could possibly have potential in the future if some numbers were cut but i am intrigued to see what Geoff Lavelle comes up with next.