There are many musicals based on one artist’s collection, but it is rare to have that artist starring in the show.
It is a tribute to David Essex’s genuine support of the show that, after an initial regional tour prior to a six month stint in the West End, he is back on the road with it again. However, his appearance is also the strength of the production and, for fans of his music, makes up for the weaknesses elsewhere.
Essex plays widowed fairground boss, Levi Lee, whose wild days of stunning crowds with his Wall of Death act are behind him. His rebellious teenage son, Jack (Rob Compton) wants to push the fair, and his life, in a new direction. But when young love strikes with a girl outside the community, fireworks start, setting the scene for romance, fighting, and a huge wave of nostalgia.
Talking of the old days, Essex jokes, “I had very long, dark, curly hair once,” before removing his hat to reveal thinning, cropped silver locks. That said, he still has an attractive twinkle in his eye, caused a huge cheer when dressed in his leathers, and carries the tunes effortlessly in his distinctive gravelly voice.
The action, which includes an impressive flying motorbike, is weaved around hits, including favourites, ‘A Winter’s Tale’, ‘Hold Me Close’, ‘Silver Dream Machine’, and ‘Gonna Make You A Star’. Anyone familiar with the music will have guessed that this fun fair is at times more carousel than rollercoaster, but if you’re a fan, it’s worth a ride.
All the Fun of the Fair from Alan Darlow Productions is at the Opera House, Manchester from 24 January 2012 to 28 January 2012.