TAKE more than forty songs, all linked to travel; methods, destinations, weather, emotions and feelings associated with it, four sublimely talented actor-musicians, the cream of Salisbury Playhouse’s creative team, including its Artistic Director and one of the performers, and the intimate ambience of the Salberg Studio, and I challenge anybody not to be delighted with the results.
Come Fly With Me is a wonderful whizz around the world, via bus, car, aeroplane, boat, train, bicycle, and of course on foot, by song, with a few linking quotations, from Chaucer to Rough Planet, some poetic, some advisory, some humorous, and much of it very familiar, but every second of it performed with absolute attention to detail, and near perfection. Familiar songs are rendered in close four-part harmony, accentuated by clever positioning of the four performers around the acting area. The material is by writers of all musical styles, from Sondheim to Simon, and original performers as diverse as I See Hawks, Divine Comedy and John Denver. The phrase “something for everyone” is rarely accurate, but it certainly applies to this show.
All four actors play the piano at some point in the show, but it is largely the domain of Glyn Kerslake, surely too young to be called a veteran, yet he seems to have been in so many West End productions which I have seen, including the famous, such as Les Miserables, Phantom, Miss Saigon, and some of the most prestigious, including definitive productions of Sondheim shows such as Merrily We Roll Along, Assassins and Road House. He was also part of last year’s musical review London Calling, in the same space at the same season. He is a truly talented musician, never upstaging or singing louder than the other three, but he is there as part of the team, one note in the harmony, or taking his turn as a solo singer.
As is becoming almost expected of most young actors if they hope to make a living these days, all the cast acted, sang, danced, and played two or more instruments, with some excellent guitar playing, including flicking and knocking it for percussion, by Matthew Harvey, a little clarinet from Natasha Brown, and some wonderful comedy timing from Elaine Glover. Only by reading the programme can one see that these three are near the beginning of their careers; there is no sign of that at all on stage – all four of the acting team move together, play together, and sing in such beautiful, natural, unamplified, voices, completely free from the artificial vibrato that seems to infect too many singers. At times I was reminded of the old radio show Sing Something Simple, or the a capella Swingle Singers, as a familiar song was deconstructed and then reconstructed before us, with every individual voice recognisable and still the harmony of the whole piece combining to scintillating effect.
The creators of Come Fly With Me – Salisbury Playhouse’s Artistic Director Gareth Machin, Adam Lenson, and performer and arranger Glyn Kerslake – started with over 300 travel related tracks from which to make their selection for this show, and every one of their choices worked, from the comically acted Our Holiday Has Just Begun, through the poignant No More (a song fans of Into the Woods will find is sadly not in the upcoming film) to the uplifting Mr Blue Sky, all causing many of us to leave the theatre singing or whistling our favourites. For an evening of absolute entertainment, fun, and fantastic musical talent, get along to the Salberg between now and 17th January, and be delighted.