After the bitter wallow of The Pain and The Itch I felt in need of something a little lighter, something altogether more lacking in marital discord and genital scabs for my next theatrical outing. This something turned out to be From The Hart at the New End Theatre, an anthology show that celebrates the life and work of lyricist Lorenz Hart.
The show itself is a simple thing, a breezy run-through of 32 classic Rodgers and Hart songs performed by an engaging five-man cast. It managed to provide some interesting nuggets about Hart's life, whilst acting as a superb showcase of the man's astute and intelligent lyrics.
Hart was barely five-feet tall and gay, and the show suggests that he held a life-long unrequited passion for his very heterosexual creative partner Richard Rodgers. He was also very conscious of his perceived unattractiveness, saying: "If I wanted perfection I had to look outside myself. If I wanted love, I had to invent it." He descended into alcoholism that would eventually contribute to his death from pneumonia at the age of 48. But despite the almost text-book tragedy of his life, the show does not wallow in pathos, far from it; instead it keeps exposition to a minimum and allows the songs to do the talking. And since these songs include Have You Met Miss Jones, The Lady Is A Tramp, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, My Romance and Blue Moon (which Hart apparently hated for being far too lyrically twee and obvious) it's not like you need anything else.
John Guerrasio plays Hart with a cigar in hand, trousers hitched high and a thick New York drawl. His performance holds the show together and gives the songs a necessary framework, however this is an ensemble piece and everyone involved pulls their weight in what is a slight but sweet evening's entertainment.
On an unrelated note, the New End Theatre was apparently originally built as a mortuary, a fact that rather delighted me when I found out, possibly more so than is normal.