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Review of One for My Baby at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

One For My BabyMany of us dream of being rich and famous, believing that it will lead to a life of fun and glamour forever. However, the reality is that the famous have many of the same problems us ordinary people have and this is wonderfully illustrated in Anthony Orme’s new show “One For My Baby”

Joe (Anthony Orme) runs a bar in downtown Los Angeles and has had a few famous customers over the years. A young journalist (Ryan Heenan) is trying to get a story about one of the most famous patrons of the bar, one Frank Sinatra (Matt Dennis Concannon). Joe tells him about an eventful night in the late 1950s – the night Frank arrived and very got drunk following his breakup with his then wife, screen icon Ava Gardner (Holly Sumpton). Accompanied by music from the bar jukebox (piano, Colm Mollow and saxophone, Minika Valkunaite), the story is told in a series of flashbacks, and the audience gets to see how the two met, flirted outrageously with each other, fell in love, got married and eventually split up. More importantly, they get to understand the pressures that can build when two famous entertainer’s lives become romantically entwined, particularly the issues when one is perceived as more successful than the other.

“One For My Baby” is a lovely piece that tells a very human story in an honest, at times brutal, but sensitive way. The set – a well stocked bar (complete with what my compatriot on the day called a ‘ringy ringy telephone’) a couple of stools and a live ‘juke box’ – was really great at bringing Joe’s bar to life as the sort of place Frank Sinatra would visit if he wanted a drink away from people that might recognise him.

Writer/Director/Actor Anthony Orme has put together a really great story, that is obviously well researched and in only 45 minutes takes the audience deep into Frank and Ava’s lives. At the same time he delivers a great performance as everyone’s favourite confidant and local barkeeper. Matt and Holly really bring Frank and Ava to life superbly as they go through their journey together. The physical proximity of the audience mean that there is no room for mistakes in displaying emotions and both actors perform superbly, drawing the watchers in to their tumultuous relationship together. Special credit should also go to Ryan Heenan who, along with the reporter, played everyone that was involved in Frank and Ava’s relationship. In an excellent piece of acting, Ryan made each character easily identifiable as an individual and, it turned out, could sing as well.

There were a couple of real stand-out moments of direction that occurred during the show, including my absolute favourite moment when Joe, reset the ‘juke box’. As well as the writing and acting, both my companion and I remarked on the costume design, particularly Holly’s dresses which were truly superb in their glamour and elegance. Finally, a quick word about the ‘juke box’. Using real musicians (accompanied at times by the singing of Holly and Ryan) was a fantastic touch that I had not seen in a production before and which worked superbly.

Overall “One For My Baby” was a great production that really brought to life the relationship between two stars of the silver screen and left me feeling that I knew more about one of my all time favourite icons as well as singing ‘Can’t Stop Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine’ all the way home.
4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

One for My Baby is an exciting original play, backed by live jazz music, telling of the passionately wild marriage of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. This play doesn’t show the glitz and glamour of the man, but portrays the sad and chaotic private life of fame, and that behind those Ol’ Blue Eyes lived the real Sinatra. Written and directed by Anthony Orme and starring a cast comprising of Royal Central School of Speech and Drama students, One for My Baby promises to transport audiences back to the 1950s, telling the story of the deeply loving, but ultimately doomed partnership of two of the era’s biggest stars.

The audience meets Joe, the bartender immortalised in Sinatra’s hit One for My Baby, who lends an ear to Frank as he reminisces about his tumultuous relationship with Gardner. Told through his own recollections of the past, the play explores the many and various ups and downs of their love affair, and questions whether anything worth having – be it youth, love, or fame – can last forever?

The action is undercut by live jazz music which plays from the ‘jukebox’ of the bar, which is made up of a group of actor-musicians. The characters of the story are brought to life when these actors step into the action of the play, and they provide the music which creates much of the play’s poignant and nostalgic atmosphere.

Coinciding with Sinatra’s Centenary year, this piece of new writing aims to present a little explored period of the music legend’s life, and gives a stage to the woman who inspired and assisted his rise to fame. One for My Baby will be playing during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015, at theSpace on the Mile from 10th – 29th August (excluding Sundays, previews held on 7th & 8th August).
http://www.cssd.ac.uk/content/central-edinburgh-fringe

Saturday 18th July 2015

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