Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Review: Putting On Your Top Hat, Ulster Hall

Fred Astaire tribute lacking

As a fan of the legendary Fred Astaire, the idea of a musical tribute really appealed to me.

Having made over 30 musicals, Astaire introduced some of the most celebrated songs from the Great American Songbook and many of these were featured in this concert including classics by Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and Cole Porter.

In a series of solos and duets, the evening’s guest vocalists Rachel Weston and Gary Williams covered such popular songs as Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, I Won’t Dance, Night And Day and We’re A Couple Of Swells. Sadly, with very formal backing from the Ulster Orchestra, many selections came across as stuffy and rehearsed with no sense of a relationship between the performers, especially during duets.

Indeed, the entire event lacked any degree of spontaneity or natural fun.

However, the evening was saved by the welcomed presence of Astaire’s daughter, Ava Astaire-McKenzie, who — during set interview pieces with conductor Benjamin Tope — gave an insight into the man. She said he was a wonderful father before going on to relate anecdotes about him and his career.

Astaire’s biggest influence was as a dancer, which makes it surprising that this tribute did not include any ... even on film.

Damien Murray

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