The Symposium Hall is an ideal venue for an acoustic music show with great views from the whole of the theatre. The Joni Mitchell Story follows the early career of Canadian nine-time Grammy Awards winner song writer Joni Mitchell whom we learn was born Roberta Joan Anderson.

Brereton certainly has the range in vocals

As part of the series of Night Owl Shows produced by Dan Clews this forms a documentary style format with live music interjections. He also produces the Carol King Story and James Taylor Story at this venue. He appears here too as the solo musician on acoustic guitar to accompany the vocal talents of Charlotte Brereton. The two barefoot artists took to the stage surrounded by LED candles, a battered suitcase and a fig tree and opened with Both Sides Now as we were introduced to the movie footage above, beautifully timed with verses alternating between footage relating to the story. While not visually like Joni Mitchell, Brereton certainly has the range in vocals, thus the tenor pop lines have occasional operatic sections with crystal clarity particularly on the challenging California which soars astronomically high at times.

The video footage between the songs are a fine link but not always related to the music. For example, Mitchell spent a long period of her early life as a polio sufferer and photos of the institutions were used to illustrate. The music was certainly uplifting though with more songs from the Blue album which is still played regularly on radio today. Songs like A Case Of You with the exact guitar arrangement, Chelsea Morning from her Chelsea Hotel days in Greenwich Village, New York or her massive breakthrough hit Big Yellow Taxi which had the audience wildly applauding. We saw how this elevated her to superstardom coinciding with her meeting David Crosby, and I felt more could have been said here as this was when Crosby, Stills & Nash were formed; her relationship with Graham Nash was ignored as was the iconic song Woodstock (the festival in 1969) which they performed and Mitchell had written. Yet lesser known songs were included like Circle Game and Cactus Tree. I understand, however, that the set does vary from show to show to keep it fresh and perhaps encourage multiple visits.

By the second half of the hour, Brereton spoke of her love for her music where her relaxed approach added to the experience. She concluded with the Christmas song River normally performed on piano but exquisitely presented by Dan on guitar and again showing the range of this young singer who performed faultlessly throughout. As she closed we were told of her own band and original music but not performing at the Fringe this year. I do expect The Joni Mitchell Story will at least return in 2018 though.

Reviews by John Murray

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Performances

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The Blurb

The Joni Mitchell Story takes you on an emotive journey through the life of nine-time Grammy Award winner and folk pioneer Joni Mitchell. This new groundbreaking show-umentary format gives a fascinating insight into the artist and her music. Both engaging and poignant, Joni's challenging back catalogue is delivered by the sublime Charlotte Brereton with a genuine love of the music and whose vocal ability is rivalled only by the great Joni Mitchell herself. Includes spellbinding renditions of Both Sides Now, A Case of You, Big Yellow Taxi and many more. ‘A truly stunning voice’ (BBC Kent).

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