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Starting Here, Starting Now at Waterloo East Theatre | Review

Set in New York and first produced in 1976, Starting Here, Starting Now is neither starting ‘here’ nor ‘now’ (London, 2021). It’s a whistle-stop tour through miscellaneous expressions of love, life, relationships and friendships. The musical number titles are often sufficient summaries of the very diverse emotions expressed: one is called ‘I Think I May Want To Remember Today’, and another is ‘I Don’t Remember Christmas’. The latter, as it happens, is not about a festive drunken escapade, but rather a character’s sheer determination to blot from his memory anything and everything to do with a past relationship. The irony is not lost on the discerning audience that by running through the various details of what happened in the past, the man is indeed recalling what he is trying to forget.

Starting Here, Starting Now This being a revue, it shouldn’t be assumed that the characters in one song remain the same in the next. In focusing on different facets of romance, the show has an aura of familiarity about it, and in this day and age might even trigger people. Noel Sullivan’s talkative character in ‘We Can Talk To Each Other’ doesn’t give Gina Murray’s stoical other half any opportunity to get a word in edgeways, though Murray gets a chance to shine in (amongst other songs), ‘Crossword Puzzle’, which isn’t entirely unknown to people who like to go to musical theatre concerts and cabaret performances.

Completing the cast is Nikki Bentley, who plumbs the depths in ‘Autumn’ in the first half, in which her character feels as though, figuratively speaking, the leaves are falling, and the colder nights are drawing in, only to resurface in the second half full of hope and positivity about what the future holds. Her take on ‘I’m Going To Make You Beautiful’ is bitter and, in a way, desperate: it’s an indictment, essentially, on the apparent need some people have to continually make themselves appear glamorous, and spend exorbitant amounts of money keeping up appearances.

With twenty-five songs, the cast plus musical director Inga Davis-Rutter are put through their paces, and perhaps unsurprisingly, not all the narratives are memorable – one song is, rather bizarrely, introduced as something that could be taught to one’s children, but then goes on for so many verses I would be surprised if anyone did attempt such a feat. Intimacy between characters under public health restrictions is, in a word, inventive. With the songs themselves pushing forward the stories, the set was relatively sparse, which helped maintain the show’s fairly rapid pace. While there were some costume changes along the way, the production relies very much on the art of storytelling.

It might have been more engaging if there was more continuity between characters, though to achieve this would mean transforming the show from a revue to a song cycle (which isn’t going to happen, forty-five years after its debut). Spoken dialogue in between musical numbers is rare (consider yourselves duly warned), and while it’s not altogether irresistible, there’s a good balance between humour and poignancy in this pleasant and charming performance.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

From tender ballads to hysterical husband-hunting laments, and wry comments on trendy marriages to ecstatic shouting-from-the-rooftop celebration, Richard Matlby Jr. and David Shire’s, Starting Here, Starting Now is a thrilling and touching musical revue that has an appealing freshness that has made it a perennial favourite throughout the world for over 45 years.

This bold, extroverted journey takes a cast of three through the maze of modern relationships with its heart firmly on its sleeve in a fast-moving, ingratiating look at how love can go right, wrong or nowhere.

Exploring Matlby and Shires catalogue of songs from their various early musicals, produced or otherwise, we find each song an impeccably crafted story, original, engaging and bursting with character, showcasing the versatility and charisma of its performer.

Nikki Bentley
Gina Murray
Noel Sullivan
in
‘Starting Here, Starting Now’
Lyrics by Richard Maltby JR
Music by David Shire

June 29 – July 18 2021
Waterloo East Theatre presents
Starting Here, Starting Now
Lyrics by Richard Maltby JR. Music by David Shire
https://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/

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