Friday, 18 April 2014

From Hackney to Hollywood: The Don Black Songbook Reviewed

From Hackney To Hollywood: The Don Black Songbook
St David's Hall, Cardiff

From Hackney to Hollywood:
The Don Black Songbook
As five silhouetted figures stepped on to the stage of St David’s Hall on March 29 and opened a two hour show with an a cappella version of the theme to Born Free, everyone in the audience knew they were in for a real treat.

Gary Wilmot, Martine McCutcheon, Ricardo Afonso, Jack McManus and Ria Jones kept the audience attention with an intimate look at the life and work of Hackney born lyricist Don Black reading extracts from Don’s diary and performing the cream of the many songs he has written for film, television and stage over the last fifty years.

As the show revealed, it all began with a family outing to the Hackney Empire when Don was merely a boy to see a James Cagney movie followed by a Max Miller performance. Don initially wanted to become a comedian, but although comedy was in Don’s blood, it wasn’t in his act.

Years later, striking up a friendship with the singer Matt Monro, Don penned the hit Walk Away and before he knew it, the likes of Tom Jones, Lulu and Shirley Bassey were performing his songs.

Martine McCutcheon
Although we didn’t have any of those stars present on the night, it was a refreshing if not fabulous twist to have stellar performances including Walk Away by Martine McCutcheon, Thunderball by Ricardo Afonso, On Days Like These by Gary Wilmot, I’ll Put You Together Again by Jack McManus and To Sir with Love by Ria Jones.

There were some incredible duets too, particularly Martine and Ria taking the lead on a Tell Me On A Sunday medley, while Gary, Ricardo and Jack presented a spectacular performance of Here’s To The Heroes from Dances With Wolves.

Of course, it’s perhaps Don’s best known work, his collaborations with John Barry on the James Bond films that received a special section to itself. This section opened with The Don Black Orchestra’s version of The James Bond Theme before Ria delivered a captivating version of Diamonds are Forever and Martine performed a gutsy version of The Man With The Golden Gun.

With musical reminders from Elsa the Lion to 007, as the show displayed The Don Black Songbook really is Oh! Oh! Heaven.

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