From immortal Disney blockbusters to rare musical gems
By Adam Tonking
Alan Menken has a singular talent for writing beautiful songs about longing to be somewhere else. On a bleak winter afternoon, there was nowhere I’d rather have been than at Flourish Productions’ The Songs Of Alan Menken. And clearly I wasn’t alone. A packed Toff In Town necessitated more chairs being brought in to accommodate the enthusiastic crowd for this cleverly staged and brilliantly performed revue show.
The song choices were particularly inspired: some incredible showstoppers from little-known or unproduced works, some more obscure choices from the famous ones, and a sprinkling of favourites simply impossible to omit. A few more obvious choices were neatly packed into a cleverly arranged overture by accompanist Lucy O’Brien. With its simple and effective staging, slick transitions, and some snappy choreography, this show was the perfect package. Add the brilliant music of Menken, and all you need is the cast.
And what a cast. Six performers of such skill that not a moment was lost, not a song failed to hit the mark. Vanessa Menjivar opened proceedings taking the lead in “Zero To Hero,” before blowing us away in “Growing Boy,” handling the food-related innuendo with great style. “Watch What Happens,” a surprisingly complex and difficult song from Newsies, was artfully delivered by Emily Paddon-Brown. Jeff Van De Zandt’s passionate and emotive rendition of “Out There” almost brought me to tears, and Zuleika Khan’s flawless “Mother Knows Best” had them pouring down my face in awe. Khan wowed again in “Suddenly Seymour,” a gorgeously tender moment with an exquisite Liam O’Byrne as Seymour. And Josh Ellwood’s “Need To Know” was a perfect gem of a song. Although it didn’t show off the impressive notes that Ellwood would consistently deliver in the rest of the show, his storytelling was perfect.
Throw in a few group numbers, such as “I Wanna Be A Rockette,” which was so good I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it, and “Lady In The Long Black Dress,” a ridiculous comic song for the men, and the afternoon was perfect. A perfect homage to a composer so beloved for his work with Disney, and so much more to fall in love with. And with a performance of such calibre, I’ll definitely be attending any future shows from Flourish Productions.
Flourish Productions presented The Songs Of Alan Menken at The Toff In Town, Level 2/252 Swanston Street, Melbourne, on Sunday 12th July 2015 at 3pm and Monday 13th of July 2015 at 8pm.