Reviewed at The Crazy Coqs, London by Barrie Jeram for Musical Theatre Review
Star rating: Five Stars ★★★★★
Crazy Coqs favourite Gary Williams returns with a celebratory tribute to 1968. While the Vietnam War raged and the Civil Rights movement was finding its feet, some of the greatest popular music was being made. It was the year that Andy Williams, Frankie Valli, Burt Bacharach, amongst others made their first live performances, and Frank Sinatra recorded ‘My Way’. It also saw the release of the Beatles’ White Album and Led Zeppelin’s first album.
Williams is the consummate cabaret performer. As well as his fine singing voice, he is also a good raconteur whose relaxed delivery and patter soon puts his audience at ease. He draws them in and turns them into a warm circle of friends. There are moments when they feel relaxed enough to indulge in friendly heckling.
How refreshing, in an age when popular music is all noise and indistinguishable lyrics, to be able to journey back with him to the heyday of swing and crooning. In a set lasting 85 minutes he manages to deliver some 25 numbers supported by his musical director and pianist, Nathan Martin. All delivered in his own intimate style.
His choice of material features plenty of Bacharach and David including ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’ and ‘Close to You’ as well as songs from Broadway shows and films – the anthem to life ‘I Gotta Be Me’ from Golden Rainbow is a tribute to Sammy Davis Jr while Camelot’s ‘If Ever I Would Leave You’ is sung with great feeling. By contrast, Williams swings the jaunty ‘Bonnie and Clyde’.
‘Wives and Lovers’ produces wry smiles at its dinosaur viewpoint of women. With a nod to his hero Sinatra, he puts across ‘My Way’ his way – a pensive soliloquy.
The songs are peppered with anecdotes and information. We learn that Paul McCartney was advised by Twiggy to sign up Mary Hopkins after she had seen her on Opportunity Knocks. This led to ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ which had the audience singing along as they did with ‘Those Were The Days’
Amongst all the familiar songs, Williams introduces several of his own compositions that will feature in his forthcoming album Treasure Seeker. ‘Next Best Thing’ debunks our materialist culture, while ‘Give Me a Second’ deals with mixed up feelings and decisions.
Once again Williams gives an evening of nostalgia and magic.