Situated beside what used to be a toll gate, the Gatehouse is a pub atop Highgate Hill boasting good food and an excellent range of real ales from microbreweries. But that is not the only reason for making the ascent up to one of the highest points in London. During the month of September you can experience a remarkable musical event which is not only a joy. It is an education. So take your drinks upstairs, sit back and enjoy the vocal harmonies of the four singers (who are also exceedingly nimble on their feet) and the superb musicianship of the pianists, bass player and drummer as they romp through some of the best-loved songs to emerge from the studios of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer in the golden age of the American musical.
Lord Reith’s mission for the BBC was to educate, to inform and to entertain. All three come together in this show, but principally the last – indeed, That’s Entertainment is one of the songs. I had not appreciated how the Great American Songbook had fused with the Great American Musical to produce mass entertainment that was of superb quality, with composers and lyricists such as Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers with his collaborators, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein contributing to the tally. The cast work their way chronologically from the first MGM musical in 1929 to Gigi in 1958, including such classics as The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St Louis, Easter Parade, Annie Get Your Gun and Singin’ in the Rain. With the original songs performed by the likes of Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, these were hard acts to follow. So how did the cast do?
The answer is, brilliantly well. They are an all-singing, all-dancing foursome, able to sing in harmony while performing complex choreography, and backed up by an excellent little band. They fairly bubble with effervescent energy, not least when hoofing it in some righteous tap-dance routines. Can you come to this show and not enjoy it? Louis B. Meyer would have given you the answer in two words: “I’m possible!”