Friday, 29 May 2015

Review: Just Jim Dale at the Vaudeville Theatre

Just Jim Dale
Vaudeville Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 28th May 2015

Best known in the UK for starring in eleven Carry On films and in the US for narrating the Harry Potter audiobook series, Jim Dale returns to the Vaudeville Theatre (where he appeared in his first musical, The Wayward Way, fifty years ago) with his one-man show Just Jim Dale.

From Music Hall to songwriting and from performing Shakespeare at the National to creating hundreds of voices for audiobooks, Dale can do (and has done) it all. Just Jim Dale impressively brings together the many sides of Dale's talents into a two hour performance, celebrating his varied career in showbiz.

The evening is broken up into various segments, with my personal favourite being when Dale guides us through how he became the youngest professional comedian on the British Music Hall stage. It's fascinating to see how Music Hall forced Dale to quickly adapt and hone his craft and, although he went on to do different things, Music Hall certainly influenced the rest of his career.

Of course I particularly enjoyed hearing about several of the Tony Award winner's major Broadway roles. Dale brushes past Me and My Girl, performing the title number, but allows a little more time when he comes to Barnum, having originated the role on Broadway before the show made its West End debut with Michael Crawford. 

There are also stories from Dale's extensive Shakespeare work, which saw him taking on many of Shakespeare's most famous comical roles. Dale worked at the National Theatre for several years, appearing alongside the one and only Laurence Olivier. Showcasing immense versatility throughout, there is also a Noel Coward monologue and some wonderful tunes accompanied by Mark York at the piano.

When Just Jim Dale ran off-Broadway there was no mention of the Carry On films as they never became popular in America, but - rest assured - a new Carry On section now opens the second act. A hilarious clip is shown and images of all the major Carry On stars pop up on the back wall (receiving huge applause from the press night audience). Here Dale tells some of his best stories, such as why he has Kenneth Williams to thank for becoming a Carry On regular.

Dale takes to the stage with a spring in his step. I think the classic Musical Hall style of comedy is an acquired taste (one I personally love), and Dale certainly has mastered his craft. He knows exactly how to work a crowd, an irresistibly funny one-liner is never too far away. A master of storytelling, Dale captivates, intrigues and entertains his audience from start to finish. 

Just Jim Dale allows audiences to reminisce, but some sections will also surprise. The production celebrates a truly talented performer who has enjoyed a magnificent career.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Just Jim Dale runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until 20th June 2015.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

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