Christine Bovill Tonight You Belong to Me at The Stand’s New Town Theatre is a musical homage to the 1920s and, in particular, the 1920s of America and the decade that formed so much of the basis of what was to follow it in the 20th century (and 21st to some extent). Here is an age of technical innovation, social revolution, emerging women’s rights, jazz music, prohibition, speakeasy bars, gangsters, Hollywood, new talking movies plus much more, and it was all captured in song and dance. In this show, Christine gives us a brief, but interesting, overview of the decade in chronological order and gives us some of the “important” songs that defined these times that were in history bookmarked in between two great tragedies –“The Great War” and the 1929 Stock-market Crash.
This show is a new show from Christine, and obviously very different from her very successful “Piaf” and “Paris” shows, and the most obvious is that we have crossed the Atlantic Ocean to America and these are not the songs of chansons françaises, but the “Jazz Age” and many that would later become fixtures in the “Great American Songbook” Here is the musical foundation of so much that was to follow for the next 50 years as creatives like Irvin Berlin, Jerome Kern, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Richard Rodgers, Josephine Baker and many others honed their crafts on an eagerly awaiting public full of hope for a new age.
For me, the distinction between the music of America and France between the 1920s and 1950s is obvious in one respect at least – there is a lightness often to the music of America, an unwillingness to go (at least in song) to the often very dark places of French songs, and for a singer like Christine Bovill who can become part of the story of a song, be one of the people in the world it creates, an obvious problem in this show is some of these songs do not offer that opportunity, but when they do, on songs like “Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime” and “Ol’ Man River” Christine is as always wonderful to watch and listen too. It is also interesting (well for me at least) to note that a ground-breaking show like “Showboat” and the powerful songs from it would probably now in our too politically correct world be accused of “cultural appropriation”.
There are some ironic moments in this show too and singing “If I Had a Talking Picture of You” to a picture of silent movie star Louise Brooks is one of them.
This is of course the age of the rise of the great black music performers (even if they were only allowed to play in venues for a white audience most of the time), and Christine gives some very good versions of Bessie Smith and Josephine Baker songs.
This is, as I have said, a new show, and I don’t want to give Christine’s set list away in this review, but there are some real surprises here, and obviously the show title song “Tonight You Belong to Me” is in the set list.
The 1920s gave us much but, for good or bad, what it gave us most was “The Cult Of The Celebrity” and the songs of this age are an important social commentary on the times that people were living in. Although much of the music here made its way to new audiences via the new “talking pictures”, it was often in a very censored fashion that all too often stripped the original meaning of the songs away, re-packaged the music once again for a specific audience. With this show we get a little bit closer to the truth of many of these songs.
Christine Bovill Tonight You Belong to Me
The Stand’s New Town Theatre
1 hour 15 minutes
Country: United Kingdom - Scotland
Group: Christine Bovill / The Stand Comedy Club
Review by Tom King