David Bedella is no stranger to doing his own concerts, and it shows. Yes, there were backing tracks in this show, but that’s entirely forgivable given the ongoing pandemic at the time of writing and the restrictions arising from that (more than enough said about that elsewhere). Bedella was joined on stage by musical director Steve Clark on the piano, and while it was quite an experience for both to have neither a band nor an in-person audience in the same room, the camaraderie and the banter was still very much evident.
The twelve songs in the show were broad to say the least and was not your typical setlist where an actor serves their fan base with hit songs from shows they’d been in before. Nothing from Jerry Springer: The Opera, nothing from In The Heights, and nothing from & Juliet. I didn’t know, however, about Bedella’s previous work in a USA touring production of La Cage aux Folles (which explains why Jerry Herman’s ‘Song on the Sand’ was included in this concert), or that he so seriously considered pursuing a career in country music that he went as far as making a demo tape, complete with a cover photo of him in a cowboy hat.
It’s details of that nature that make concerts like this so fascinating, even if the country song performed, ‘Down On My Knees’, was rather too saccharine for my liking, a fantasy on how much “begging and pleading” would go on if the narrator’s other half were to leave him, which she appears to have no actual intention of doing. But, as though to demonstrate there’s something for almost everyone in this performance, this was immediately followed by ‘Too Close For Comfort’, an upbeat 1956 song covered by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Williams, and Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra (and, many years later, Jamie Cullum). This in turn was followed by a cover of David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’. Versatility is often spoken about with regards to solo concerts, but all this really was on another level.
Some of the song choices were highly topical, inasmuch as Bedella made them so. ‘There’s Gotta Something Better Than This’ from the first act of Sweet Charity is about a group of dancers thinking about leaving their careers in the entertainment industry and pursuing alternative vocations. This, for Bedella, brought to mind soundbites in earlier stages of the pandemic (whether they actually emanated, in his words, “by Government decree” or not) about ‘viable jobs’ and ‘retraining’. Even more pertinently, given recent events in the United States in the days preceding this concert, ‘Let There Be Peace On Earth’ was a particularly poignant song to end proceedings with, and the lyric, “and let it begin with me” is something for certain people to think about. Of course, the song’s composers could not have had keyboard warriors on social media in mind when they wrote it in 1955.
Bedella gives a confident and assured performance, with a crystal clear delivery of every word in every line of every song. With some highly relevant choices, it may not be the tonic for those seeking comfort in these troubled times through escapism. But that doesn’t stop this from being a heartfelt and charming evening.
Review by Chris Omaweng
An Evening with David Bedella, streamed live from Crazy Coqs in the heart of the West End, at 7pm on Saturday 9 January.