Tag Archives: Julius D’Silva

Feline Groovy


The REP, Birmingham, Friday 29th October, 2021

A jukebox musical?  A jukebox musical based on the back catalogue of Welsh superstar Tom Jones?  A jukebox musical based on the back catalogue of Welsh superstar Tom Jones with a plot inspired by Henry Fielding’s novel of 1749?

Oh, go on then.

It turns out to be a consummate example of the jukebox musical genre.  Writer Joe DiPietro takes the bare bones of Fielding’s book, transposing the action to 1960s London — the show’s aesthetic blends elements from both periods, and it works beautifully, to create a vibrant, post-modern experience that is a whole lot of fun.

In the lead as Tom Jones (the hero from the book, not the singer) is the snake-hipped, angel-voiced Dominic Andersen, who is absolutely perfect. Those rich vocals soar and his charisma never wanes. At one point, due to plot reasons, he is stripped down to his underwear (but he keeps his hat on) and I am reminded of his turn as Rocky Horror a few years back. Kudos to the casting director! Andersen seems born for this role. His ‘It’s Not Unusual’ gets the heart racing, and ‘I Who Have Nothing’ is stunning.

Dominic Andersen (Photo: Pamela Raith)

Tom’s love interest, Mary Western, is played by Bronté Barbé — don’t let her diminutive frame fool you; she possesses a belter of a voice, ideally suited to the melodramatic ballads of Tom Jones (the singer not the hero of the book).   Mary is an independent young woman,

There’s a comic subplot (even though the main plot is comic enough) involving Tom’s former teacher, Mr Partridge (Ashley Campbell) and ‘The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress’ (Rebekah Hinds), both of whom are delightful.  There is a touch of conflict stirred up by Tom’s rival for Mary, William Blifil (a supremely snobby Harry Kershaw), while Melanie Walters’s Mrs Western is good value as the acquisitive matchmaker.  These characters epitomise the clash of cultures in the world of this show: marriage as a transaction/sex as a pastime. Julius D’Silva’s kindly Lord Allworthy speaks up for love as the guiding factor. D’Silva imbues his two-dimensional part with warmth, and is not without his surprises.

Bringing the glamour is the fabulous Kelly Price as Lady Bellaston, a kind of Kim Cattrall cougar figure with designs on Tom.  Price gets to wear all the best outfits, including a plastic wedding dress that has to be seen to be believed.  Janet Bird’s costumes go all out to evoke the period settings, and her budget must have been generous.  The iconic fashions keep coming!

Special mention of Lemuel Knights as Big Mickey.  His ‘Delilah’ brings the house down in a show-stopping moment when the song is staged as a psychotic prison ballet.  Which seems like an appropriate time to mention the choreography by Arlene Phillips, no less.  She works the cast hard — the dancing hardly seems to stop, and its slick, of the period, and a delight.  The energy pours off the stage throughout this incredible production.

Luke Sheppard directs with brio, emphasising the staginess of the enterprise.  At one point, he has a couple of ‘stagehands’ come on to help create special effects for a train journey — I would have liked to see more of this kind of thing throughout.  Similarly, the chorus of three girls (think Little Shop of Horrors) come and go, fading from the forefront (but always fabulously dressed!)  The proposal scene is a riot of overblown kitsch; I can barely drink it all in.

It all builds to Fielding’s resolution of laughably convenient revelations, and while some might accuse the show of being a victory of style over substance, I think the meatiness of the songs adds depth to the stock characters, and the sexual politics are handled in a fun way.

An uplifting, energising piece of feelgood fun, this show deserves a long run in the West End.  The songs don’t feel shoehorned in, the design is gorgeous, and the exuberant, talented ensemble impresses. The nine-piece band, under the musical direction of Josh Sood, is absolutely phenomenal.

The next jukebox musical to come down the pike has a tough act to follow.


Dominic Andersen and Rebekah Hinds, with Ashley Campbell (centre) Photo: Pamela Raith

Monk-y Business

ETERNAL LOVE – The Story of Abelard and Heloise

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 25th February, 2014


English Touring Theatre and the Globe are touring this excellent Howard Brenton play in a show that has all the production values you expect.  The costumes alone (over a hundred of them) are impressive, denoting character, place and period in the absence of detailed scenery and props.  The set evokes the Globe theatre itself with its musicians’ gallery, two entrances and a concealed area, adding to the historicity of the piece.

The plot tells of real-life star-crossed lovers Abelard and Heloise although there is just as much emphasis on religious and philosophical debate, both of which give the couple a bit of bother.  David Sturzaker is a likeable Abelard, fired up by his Aristotelian teachings as much as he is by his lust for Heloise (Jo Herbert), who, remarkably for the era, is an inquisitive, literate and educated girl.  As we side with the couple, we side against the religious fanatics, epitomised by bonkers Bernard, a vomiting, foot-licking monk – a gripping performance by Sam Crane.  Things fall apart for the lovers and they end up taking holy orders and spending most of their lives apart.

Sturzaker, Herbert and Crane are supported by a hard-working ensemble.  Edward Peel impresses as Heloise’s uncle Fulbert and the cast play the rich humour of the script to perfection, balancing it against the cruelty and horror of some of the scenes.  John Cummins is very funny as Alberic and Julius D’Souza suitably imperious as a Louis VI who reminded me of Henry VIII.

The production is a delight from curtain to curtain.  Hard-working musicians (William Lyons, Rebecca Austen-Brown, and Arngeir Hauksson) on period instruments provide an evocative soundtrack, although Brenton’s dialogue is very much of today, without resorting to slang and buzzwords that will date very quickly.  Director John Dove imbues his production with the feel of a Kneehigh production – which is no bad thing at all.

The play’s a discussion of the use of religion as an instrument of power.  Still relevant today is the ongoing battle between reason and fanaticism, and the role of bigotry and oppression in legislation.  Beware giving power to fanatics, the play says.  When I see laws being passed around the world in places like Uganda and even Kansas and Arizona, it feels like a rebirth of the medieval era – an anti-Renaissance.

An absolute gem of a show, Eternal Love isn’t heavy-handed with its ideas; amusing and emotive, it’s a very satisfying night at the theatre.


Touching. David Sturzaker and Jo Herbert