Tag Archives: Danny Kaan

Off The Top With Jason Kravits

★★★★★

Crazy Coqs Live At Zédel

Off The Top With Jason Kravits

Off The Top With Jason Kravits

Crazy Coqs Live At Zédel

Reviewed – 13th January 2020

★★★★★

 

“He fills the intimate space of the Crazy Coqs with a low key, but dynamic energy”

 

Jason Kravits is a successful American character actor who obviously enjoys giving himself a bit of a challenge, because his cabaret show Off The Top is ninety minutes of improvisation taken from audience suggestions written down on slips of paper. Does this performing without the safety net of a full script work? Heck, yes.

Off The Top really begins while we’re settling into our chairs in the elegant, Art Deco inspired decor of the The Crazy Coqs cabaret space downstairs at the Brasserie Zédel in Piccadilly Circus. On the table in front of us are slips of paper and pencils. We are invited to drop these slips of paper into a fish bowl handed round by the master of ceremonies, on which we have written responses to “A Place,” “A Thing,” “A Short Phrase,” “Words to Live By” and “The Last Text Message You Sent or Received.” Then Kravits appears, creates a character made up on the spot consisting of an audience member’s middle name plus a place name, and jumps on stage.

Since his show every night is different, I won’t hesitate to give spoilers by saying that on this particular night, we were treated to the life story of the not-so-famous Matthew Discovery from Tulsa, Oklahoma (there were quite a few Americans and Canadians in the audience). Discovery himself is nattily dressed in a plaid suit with lilac shirt and purple tie, and while he draws slips out of the fish bowl to describe the circumstances of his early life in Tulsa’s “wet sock” factory surrounded by pussycats and lifeboats, we find out that this wannabe performer of the cabaret scene can really sing. With the backing of a nicely mellow three piece band (MD/pianist John Thorn, bass Jonny Gee and drums Sophie Alloway) Discovery might treat us at any moment to a Sinatra like riff on “health, beauty and love” or a song about Grimsby that includes fish and donkeys. A version of an “unknown” song by Sondheim is instantly recognisable. But the barnstormer is the duet sung with guest star Ruth Bratt as the couple fondly recall their attempts to connect given that she’s a bigamist attempting to become a “trigamist”. (What on earth was written on that slip of paper?) In short, Kravits’ show, based on the rough sketch of a performer following his dream, is a hilarious world tour that visits Tulsa and the Taj Mahal, with brief detours to Venice; Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, and yes, Grimsby. The climax of the story takes place in Croydon, naturally, during a street performance that almost gets the hapless Discovery arrested, while creating a major diplomatic incident with Canada. By this point the audience is breathless with laughter.

Kravits makes all this acting by the seat of his pants look effortless. He fills the intimate space of the Crazy Coqs with a low key, but dynamic energy. Sometimes he’ll slip the audience the side eye when presented with a particularly outrageous word or phrase from the bits of paper, but then he kind of mentally shrugs and launches into a vocal rendition liberally sprinkled with F words and S words anyway. He’s had us all in the palms of his expressive hands from the start. When we leave, ninety minutes later, his brilliant, made up on the spot songs are still on our lips, and our stomach muscles still aching from non-stop laughter.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Danny Kaan

 


Off The Top With Jason Kravits

Crazy Coqs Live At Zédel until 19th January

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Dad’s Army Radio Hour | ★★★½ | January 2018
Liza Pulman Sings Streisand | ★★★★ | March 2018
The Clementine Show | ★★★★ | July 2018
I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical | ★★★★★ | August 2018
Welcome to the Big Top | ★★★★ | October 2018
Well-Strung | ★★★ | October 2018
Sinatra: Raw | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Randy Roberts Live! | ★★★★ | June 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Fiver
★★★★

Southwark Playhouse

Fiver

Fiver

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 5th July 2019

★★★★

 

“The writing avoids stereotypes and subverts expectations in surprising ways; it’s cleverly done”

 

There is something rather wonderful about watching a high quality musical in a small venue. The closeness to the actors and the sense of being almost surrounded by their glorious voices in an intimate space brings a sense of emotional involvement that is much harder to achieve in a large theatre. Fiver, written by Alex James Ellison and Tom Lees fills the space with vibrant energy and passion, taking the audience on a roller coaster ride as it charts the journey of an ordinary five pound note from pocket to wallet, through the hands of dozens of characters. The cast of five morph into a host of women and men, all linked by the fiver’s travels. There are some characters who appear as threads in the interwoven storylines, and many more who appear just once, maybe just for a minute, but still make an impact.

This is very much an ensemble piece, performed by a cast of five talented actors. Hiba Elchikhe, Luke Bayer, Aoife Clesham, Dan Buckley and Alex James Ellison make a great team, bouncing off each other’s energy and telling many human stories with heart, humour and compassion. The writing avoids stereotypes and subverts expectations in surprising ways; it’s cleverly done. Justin Williams’ well designed flexible set, and the lighting and sound design, by Alex Musgrave and Chris Taunton respectively, give the action a hugely varied physical context, beautifully supporting the storytelling.

The piece works well musically too. There were tears in the audience during the moving and achingly beautiful ‘You’ll be a man, my son’ which segued into a school scene that brought back memories of the effortless cruelty of children. The story of the letter, and the repeated refrain of ‘have you prayed tonight teacher?’ was intriguing and eventually chilling. There was also plenty of uproarious laughter throughout.

There was some confusion in the second act when the time line felt muddled. This was such a huge disconnect that it threw me out of the story for a while, as I tried to follow the logic. It’s a shame, as in the rest of the show the stories twined together with amazing coherence. This could be fixed by reorganising the scenes, and I hope Ellison and Lees consider doing so before the show has its next outing.

The ‘adventures’ of the humble fiver provide a framework on which Ellison and Lees have hung tales of love, loss, joy, sadness and what it’s like to be human. It’s a lovely piece.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Danny With A Camera

 


Fiver

Southwark Playhouse until 20th July

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Funeral Director | ★★★★★ | November 2018
The Night Before Christmas | ★★★ | November 2018
Aspects of Love | ★★★★ | January 2019
All In A Row | ★★ | February 2019
Billy Bishop Goes To War | ★★★ | March 2019
The Rubenstein Kiss | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Other People’s Money | ★★★ | April 2019
Oneness | ★★★ | May 2019
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Afterglow | ★★★½ | June 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com