Song of Singapore

A new musical with swing sounds is coming to London's West End

A new musical set in wartime Singapore is coming to London's Mayfair Theatre at the end of June 2001. Although there's no dancing to speak of, the music is a delight, with some swing, jump-jive and blues peppering the show. 

The setting is Freddy's Cafe in Singapore, where a bunch of ex-patriate musicians from The States, Holland and good ol' Blighty are contemplating their fate, as they listen to BBC radio broadcasts telling of the imminent invasion by Japan. Into their midst comes Rose, a glamorous amnesiac singer (Issy Van Randwyck), who livens up the joint with her voice and personality.

There's not much plot to speak of, relying as it does on that traditional storyline of stolen-jewels-hidden-in-a-fish theme so beloved by many screenwriters of the era. The credo of the authors, Allan Katz, Erik Frandsen, Michael Garin, Robert Hipkens and Paula Lockheart, was simple: every problem has a solution, and have fun. 

The action takes place in the cafe where the band play, and is occasionally interrupted by assorted other characters, usually played by Neil Gore. The cast play, sing and sometimes dance their way through 18 numbers, as the twin mysteries of what happened to the fish and the true identity of Rose are unraveled.

Musically, the six-piece band can really cut it, with Julian Tucker and Miles Russell providing an excellent brass/woodwind backing. Elio Pace plays cafe owner Freddy S. Lyme, and shows some nice touches on the piano. Richard Brightiff adds a lot of the humour as Dutchman Hans van der Last, especially in his solo spot on the improbably-named I Miss My Home In Haarlem.

Every good band needs a strong rhythm section, and Martin Roach (bass) and James Wilson (drums) power  this one along nicely. A taste of the exotic East is added by Beatrice Grace as Chah Li (don't groan, there are way worse puns than that in this production), who is given the task of managing the cafe in the first act, but sadly disappears for most of the second act.

The star of the show is Issy van Randwyck, and she doesn't disappoint. In fine voice throughout, she can belt out a blues as well as show some nice comic touches, as the depth of her amnesia is tested by the band and the police inspector.

The show has not just appeared out of nowhere: it originally opened at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester in August 1998, and has been previewing at The Greenwich Theatre in South London. It transfers to the Mayfair Theatre on June 28 2001. Suffice to say you will not learn much about the war, Singapore or the characters, but if you can handle that, there's a good time and some good music to be had here.

2001 Andrew Winton.

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