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Tim Rice: My Life in Musicals – I Know Him So Well – Rose Theatre Kingston

The thing about the theatre world is that it is often trying to think about the future – forthcoming seasons, upcoming tours, and so on. One member of a musical theatre interest group on social media has developed a reputation for asking what will go into a theatre next, after a particular show has closed, sometimes asking just after a new West End show with an open-ended run has started previews, much to the chagrin of other theatre patrons, who naturally feel the show in question should at least be given a chance. To spend the evening at the theatre looking back over a long career is, therefore, rather unusual.

Tim Rice: My Life in Musicals - I Know Him So Well. Photo credit: Nicky Johnston
Tim Rice: My Life in Musicals – I Know Him So Well. Photo credit: Nicky Johnston

By the end of this year, Tim Rice will be eighty years young, and the cynic in me wondered why he’d launched a tour with his own show, complete with band and singers. It’s a bit like a pop group, long disbanded, reuniting and going on tour because their money has run out and they need to literally go out and make some more. But Tim isn’t, as he says in a welcome note in the show’s programme, “looking for a new job anywhere these days”, so he’s doing it simply because he can. There’s no ulterior motive, no new musical to plug, and no over-promotion of a new work while the audience sits patiently wondering if the big hits are going to make an appearance at all. There are, as his song ‘Hakuna Matata’ put it, no more worries for the rest of his days.

Tim – so disarmingly modest that first name terms apply – was made a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994, but there’s no mention of this, at least not by Tim himself. As the evening progressed it became clear why – the man is an ‘EGOT’. That is, he is the recipient of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards over the years. A knighthood is therefore simply neither here nor there. Interestingly, his most treasured award is a small glass trophy given to him for reaching the final of an episode of the television quiz show Pointless, which he participated in for charity.

Despite the show’s title, My Life in Musicals, there’s a whole lot more beyond the stage – I wasn’t aware, for instance, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber had written a song for Elvis Presley, ‘It’s Easy For You’, released weeks before Presley’s death. Tim had collaborated with Mike Batt to write ‘A Winter’s Tale’, sung by David Essex. He had worked on the soundtrack for the James Bond movie Octopussy. And then there were the Disney films, or “cartoons”, as he liked to call them.

It was a long evening, but it didn’t feel like one, and thinking back to quite how many songs were performed live, it’s a slight surprise it wasn’t even longer than three hours (there was an interval). On the night I attended, there were extensive transport problems on the railways, and consequently on the road network as ‘everyone’ gave ‘everyone else’ a lift, which put some of the audience, including myself, in a bit of a damp mood – listening to Tim’s many anecdotes, successes and not-so-successes proved to be quite the perfect pick up.

It is quite something to hear ‘You Must Love Me’ from Evita, ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?’ from The Lion King, and ‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin sung all in one medley, all Oscar winning songs, while the lyricist sits in the background on a stool, looking on approvingly. The sound balance was perfect throughout, with every lyric clearly heard – not always the way, as Tim himself candidly admitted, exploring possible reasons why a certain show of his and Lloyd Webber didn’t last on Broadway.

The impact of Tim Rice’s work over the decades is nothing short of phenomenal – listening to him name-dropping Elvis Presley and Elton John, amongst others, with the same sort of leisurely ease that one might name-drop a work colleague or a cousin isn’t something that happens every day. A lively, fascinating and insightful night out.

5 Star Rating

Singers – John Addison, Madalena Alberto, Shonagh Daly, Sandy Grigelis
Musical Director and Piano – Duncan Waugh
Guitar – Tim Maple
Drums – Rob Waugh
Bass – Harrison Wood



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