If you’re looking for some old-fashioned entertainment over the winter lockdown, then an evening in the company of West End star David Bedella might be the answer. Over 80 minutes Bedella – currently the holder of the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical – sings his way through an unexpected songbook that is both charming and poignant.
His first song I Can See It, a relatively obscure musical number with lots of gear changes, is an odd choice to start with. And while he’s accompanied on the piano by Steve Clark, it’s hard to discern where the percussion and brass is coming from. Later Clark reveals that any extra orchestral music is coming from his iPad. His arrangements provide some classy backing, but Bedella shines best when it’s just him and the piano.
Songs like New York State Of Mind and country number Down On My Knees showcase the low and mellow timbre of Bedella’s voice, which adds some grandeur to Life On Mars. Along with Bowie’s classic, the most well-known song of the evening must be One Day In Your Life, but this Michael Jackson number is channelled through crooner Johnny Mathis, who covered the song five years before Jackson did.
Such an approach is a safe one, but Bedella does have something to say to the Government which last year suggested that unemployed creatives seek careers in computing , and belts out the very funny number Something Better Than This from Sweet Charity where Bedella imagines a career as a receptionist or a hat-check girl. Let’s hope that Bedella gets back to his role in &Juilet sometime later this spring. He won his first Oliver in 2004 for Jerry Springer-The Opera and won another in 2016 for In The Heights.
Between the numbers, he and Clark chat a little, but sometimes the latter uses the wrong microphone and his words are inaudible, but both men do well to imagine the live audience watching online. After a few numbers, their awkwardness vanishes and they both relax, with Bedella even explaining why his teeth dazzle as much as his shirt. At one point in their chats they start discussing Barry Manilow and for one second it seems as if the two men are about to launch into an impromptu medley of Bermuda Triangle and Even Now, and it’s a shame that they don’t.
But a Manilow vibe permeates the evening with songs like a bossa nova-inspired 99 Miles From LA, and they are just the ticket for these cold nights. Comforting, and, even sometimes, uplifting these kind of old-fashioned evenings are the best.
Runs until 11 January 2021 here