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Review: Tim Minchin, Metro Radio Arena PDF Print E-mail
Written by Elliott Clarke   
13 12 2010
ImageTim Minchin's act has always had a sense of cabaret about it, as the piano-playing rationalist comedian combines music, stand-up, acting, and even dancing in a genre-spanning spectacle that has been turning heads in the UK for almost 5 years. When the time inevitably came to book his debut national arena tour, the self-styled "Comedy Rock Superstar" relished the opportunity to create a comedy show so lavishly self-indulgent that it couldn't be performed in any venue other than an arena.

With that in mind, Tim Minchin and his Orchestra sees the Australian tour-de-force take the stage at Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena backed by the 55-piece Heritage Orchestra. Plus a rhythm section - just for good measure.

After a suitably spectacular entrance - opening with a dissection of the tour's opulence in song form - Minchin effortlessly discusses his recent thoughts and experiences, seemingly unfazed by the gargantuan audience he is faced with. While the stage lights, smoke machines, and aforementioned orchestra reinforce the sheer scale of the spectacle, dual video screens flank the stage to display the subtle body language and trademark facial nuances that may otherwise be lost in such a large venue.

The musical material strikes a healthy balance between old and new, with the semi-autobiographical Rock n' Roll Nerd and the not-at-all-autobiographical Dark Side standing out as personal highlights. Surprisingly, given the extensive nature of his back catalogue and his recent workload (Minchin's musical interpretation of Matilda is currently being performed by the RSC), the new material shows the songwriter on top form. The dark humour and controversy that Minchin is known for abound, and the gloriously post-modern ballad Beauty may be my new favourite song.

The Heritage Orchestra are used to full effect - not only accompanying the songs, but punctuating gags with musical expression and sound effects; shouting certain lyrics en masse; and even throwing in jokes of their own (listen out for musical homage throughout). Jules Buckley is a superb arranger, and his work brings these songs to life, giving Minchin the scope to parody an array of musical genres - over the course of the show, the Orchestra are called upon to perform rock, jazz, rap, samba, ballad, polka, and funk fusion.

As a fan of Tim Minchin's previous work, I wasn't expecting to be disappointed by this show, and entered with extremely high expectations. However, the superior ability of Jules Buckley & the Heritage Orchestra, and the ambitious scale of the production unite to make this night one to remember.



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