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A CurtainUp London London Review
All the Fun of the Fair

It was only a winter's tale
Just another winter's tale
And why should the world take notice
Of one more love that's failed
A love that could never be
Though it meant a lot to you and me
On a world wide scale we're just another winter's tale.

— Verse from "A Winter's Tale"
All the Fun of the Fair
David Essex as Levi (Photo: Paul Mitchell)
Arriving in the West End is David Essex's musical All the Fun of the Fair. David Essex wasn't just a rock star but he also had a considerable West End musical career taking the lead in shows like Godspell and Mutiny, and he played Che in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Evita. Essex's voice is still amazing for its clarity and interesting for its range and earthy register and he can still belt out those wonderful tunes. All the Fun of the Fair is a simple story of love, jealousy and life in a fairground, constructed around Essex's hit songs. David Essex's mother was a Romany and from her he inherited his good looks and relaxed but charming manner.

There are two main aspects that make All the Fun of the Fair worth seeing. One is the tremendous singing both of Essex, as Levi the fairground owner, and the juvenile lead, playing Levi's son Jack, Michael Pickering who looks not unlike the late Stephen Gately. Michael Pickering is a big talent with a voice that is made for rock ballads. The other joy is the tremendous orchestrations, the guitar arrangements that were a strength of Essex's compositions and seem made for the drama of musical theatre. The number one hit songs are there, "Hold Me Close" and "Gonna Make You a Star" and although it only made Number 4, the wonderful motor bike song, "Silver Dream Racer". Some of the first act numbers seem to be very short versions of the originals and keep the whole musical tight at just under two hours including the interval.

Fairground owner Levi is a widower. His wife was killed on a motorcycle on the Wall of Death ride. His son Jack goes out with Mary (Susan Hallam-Wright) daughter of Levi's paramour, the gypsy fortune teller Rosa (Louise English). Levi's old rival, East End mobster Harvey (Christopher Timothy) is arranging a birthday party for his daughter Alice (Nicola Brazil). Harvey's sidekick is his minder, Druid (Cameron Jack). Slow Jonny (Tim Newman) was abandoned at the fairground as a child and has been brought up as one of the family. Jonny's ambition is to ride the"Silver Dream Machine". Jack falls for Alice much to her father's disapproval and the fairground is attacked by Harvey's men.

The staging is simple, fairground lights and booths but the authentic gallopers, those painted fairground horses that rise up and down are effective, as are the Dodgems for the number "Hold Me Close" but don't expect spectacular West End staging from this small scale musical. There are three motor bikes though for the "Silver Dream Machine" number but don't expect a Wall of Death onstage. The choreography for the nightclub scene "Me and My Girl" is exciting, stylised dance. The upbeat "Streetfight" sees the fairground trashed by Druid and his henchmen. I liked the atmospheric lighting for "Dangerous" with the background girders light bulbs lit red and a dark chord heralding the rock number.

The performances are fine and although the song lyrics have to some extent dictated the plot, the resulting musical has a lot of heart. David Essex in his black hat and jeans is the smiling presence grise of the travelling fairground Nicola Brazil as Alice in the prettiest of pink party frocks gets to sweetly sing a couple of romantic duets with Michael Pickering as Jack. The usually posh Christopher Timothy is almost unrecognisable as wide boy Harvey, his voice gruff and Cockney and I very much liked Tim Newman's original Donald Duck type delivery as the sweet youth, Slow Jonny. The women make less of an impact singing than the men who are memorable.

All the Fun of the Fair is a must see for those who enjoy David Essex's rock repertoire but for the others, if you want good tunes beautifully sung, this hits the spot. At one point Levi says wistfully, "I had long brown curly hair once". Well so he did but many men would wish for David Essex's present day good looks, the warmth of his personality and his voice is still brilliant!

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All the Fun of the Fair
Music and Lyrics by David Essex
Book by John Conway
Directed by David Gilmore

Starring: David Essex, Michael Pickering, Christopher Timothy, Louise English, Nicola Brazil, Tim Newman,
With: Tricia Adele-Turner, Susan Hallam-Wright, Chris Holland, Cameron Jack, Kieran Jae, Tom Kanavan, Robert Rees, Emily Tierney, Shona White, Danielle York
Magical Creative Consultants: The Twins
Set and Costume Design: Ian Westbrook
Musical Arranger and Studio Production: Ian Wherry
Musical Supervisor: Olly Ashmore
Winter's Tale: Tim Rice and Mike Batt
Lighting: Ben Cracknell
Sound: Sebastian Frost and Steve Jonas
Assistant Director and Musical Staging: Sophie Lawrence
Running time: One hour 50 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0844 412 4662
Booking to 5th September 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 28th April 2010 The Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0HH (Rail/Tube:Charing Cross)
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • A Winter's Tale - Rosa
  • All the Fun of the Fair - Levi and Company
  • He Noticed Me - Alice and Mary
  • Here We Are Together - Levi, Mary, Rosa, Jack and Company
  • It's Gonna Be Alright - Levi
  • Hold Me Close - Jack and Levi and Company
  • Pretty Thing - Jack and Alice
  • Rock On - Levi and Harvey
  • Me And My Girl (Nightclubbing) - Jack, Jonny and Company
  • Street Fight - Druid and Company
  • It's Gonna Be Alright (Reprise)- Levi
  • Gonna Make You a Star - Levi, Jonny, Jack and Company
Act Two
  • Father And Son - Levi and Jack
  • You're In My Heart - Levi, Rosa, Alice, Mary and Jack
  • Lamplight - Jack
  • Stay Young And Free - Harvey, Druid and Alice
  • She's Leaving - Jonny, Levi, Harvey and Company
  • If I Could - Jack and Alice
  • Dangerous - Levi, Mary, Rosa, Druid and Company
  • It's Gonna Be Alright (Reprise)- Levi
  • A Winter's Tale (Reprise) - Rosa and Levi
  • Silver Dream Machine - Jack, Jonny and Levi
  • Here We Are All Together (Reprise) - Levi and Company
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