Sometimes a little simplicity can go a long way in the theatre, and in this case, the title of this piece about the life of composer and performer Ivor Novello is very apt, as it really is a case of an interesting story being very well told. Held together by some of Novello’s best-loved and some lesser-known numbers,
As engaging as their storytelling is, however, the real standout element of the production is the music itself
The presentation of Novello’s history is shared by the company of three singers, with even pianist Bill Kean taking on a few lines and characters. This splitting of the narration ensures variety and interest is maintained, as the perspective flits between the first person experiences of Novello, often portrayed by baritone James Dinsmore, and some slightly more distanced accounts given by soprano Daisy Henderson and mezzo Elizabeth McCormack.
As engaging as their storytelling is, however, the real standout element of the production is the music itself. As a tribute to Novello, whose name if not work has lived on after his death, the vocal quality of each performer does great justice to a man whose music was so widespread and popular during his largely inter-war career.
Though at times appearing a little static, this is remedied later in the performance as some songs are afforded more dynamic direction than others, with the moments of stillness actually usefully foregrounding the music itself. It is most pleasing that the quality of the performance is never in doubt, from the very first piano instrumental to the occasions of seemingly effortless vocal harmonies providing a luxuriance in the music entirely fitting with the values and aims of the piece. The piano work of Kean is a joy in itself, with his vibrant performance being as good to watch as it is to hear.
With highlights including the comic “And Her Mother Came Too!”, “It’s Bound to be Right on the Night”, and the ever-popular war time classic “Keep the Home Fires Burning”, which occasioned a spontaneous sing-along by a great number of the crowd in a poignant closure of the first act, The Ivor Novello Story is a feel-good, laugh out loud and gentle evening’s entertainment, filled with classic tunes performed consummately.