Wednesday 9 August 2017

Fragments of Porgy

The Basement Orchestra
The Basement Orchestra
Gerswhin Porgy and Bess (Excerpts); Talia Cohen, Masimba Ushe, Basement Orchestra, Guy Jones; Grimeborn Festival at Arcola Theatre
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on Aug 5 2017
Star rating: 3.0

Fascinating and brilliantly performed: the rise of reform opera

“If I am successful it will resemble a combination of the drama and romance of Carmen and the beauty of Meistersinger

Pity though it is not to hear the majesty of Gershwin’s unifying symphonic vision of Porgy and Bess, it’s easy to understand the universal appeal of the beautiful melodies in the musical theatre arrangement performed on Saturday 5 August 2017, by the Basement Orchestra as part of Arcola Theatre’s Grimeborn season. “I am not ashamed of writing songs at any time so long as they are good songs”. There’s an understatement.

On Saturday evening in a small sweaty studio, under the musical direction of Guy Jones with a forty five piece orchestra, we were given a forty five minute whistle stop tour of some of the most recognisable hits of the twentieth century with the voices of Talia Cohen and Masimba Ushe.

Talia Cohen all laid back charm, and the sonorous and charismatic bass-baritone of Masimba Ushe were at their best in ‘It ain’t necessarily so’ and ‘Bess you is my woman now’. But put under pressure by the size and over exuberance of the orchestra, in such a small venue, they were often swamped. Still, wrapped in such glorious music it was one of the most fleeting forty five minutes of my life.
Reviewed by Anthony Evans

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