Starting Here, Starting Now, Waterloo East Theatre, London review ✭✭✭✭

Last Updated on 2 July 2021 by Showcall Editorial Team

Mark Ludmon reviews the revival of Richard Maltby Jr and David Shire’s revue, Starting Here, Starting Now, at Waterloo East Theatre in London with Nikki Bentley, Gina Murray and Noel Sullivan

Starting Here Starting Now
Gina Murray, Noel Sullivan and Nikki Bentley. Photo: Gareth McLeod

Starting Here, Starting Now
Waterloo East Theatre, London

With songs like “New Life Coming”, Starting Here, Starting Now provides an upbeat soundtrack for a more hopeful, less socially distanced future. First staged in New York City in 1976, this revue has been revived at Waterloo East Theatre with some well-judged adjustments by director Gerald Armin and musical director Inga Davis-Rutter.

With minimal set and costumes, it is a compilation of songs by Richard Maltby Jr and David Shire who together have written musicals such as Big and Take Flight and individually have worked on more. Although there is no connecting story, Starting Here, Starting Now journeys through beautiful ballads, soulful and cynical laments about failed relationships through to the feel-good finale of “New Life Coming” and “One Step”, where the world has “become splendid, unhappiness ended”.

Many of the songs have a pleasing 1970s middle-of-the-road feel to them, with a few catchy melodies, but even the most unremarkable of pieces is given a lift by the three performers: Nikki Bentley, Gina Murray and Noel Sullivan. Bentley, who starred as Elphaba in Wicked before Covid came along, infuses the solo ballad, “Autumn”, with great emotional power while Murray – a former Donna in Mamma Mia! – brings a bitter-sweet humour to “Crossword Puzzle”. One of the highlights is her performance of “A Little Bit Off”, playing a woman wrestling with her feelings for a man, worried he’s getting “a little too close” – very much a piece for our socially distanced times. Bentley and Murray have an engaging cheekiness that suits the cabaret-style form of the the revue, demonstrated in songs such as the longingly lustful “I Think I May Want To Remember Today”. All three come together with pleasing harmony in other songs such as “Just Across the River”, “Travel” and “Starting Here, Starting Now” itself.

Not all the songs are memorable, although there are potential ear worms such as “One Step”, but the performers make the most of every single one of them from belters to ballads, accompanied by Davis-Rutter on the keyboard. The show is full of charm, featuring some stellar peformances, and well timed for getting us to take “one tentative step” back into the theatre.

Running to 18 July 2021

waterlooeast.co.uk

About Mark Ludmon 263 Articles
Mark Ludmon has been a journalist for over 20 years, specialising in theatre as well as hospitality and drinks after starting out on regional daily newspapers. He has an MA in early modern literature and history, focusing on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and a theatre studies MA from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. He has also been on the judging panel for the Olivier Awards. He can be found tweeting as @MarkLudmon and writing about theatre at https://markludmon.com.