REVIEW: Just Jim Dale, Vaudeville Theatre ✭✭✭✭✭

Just Jim Dale at the Vaudeville Theatre
Mark York and Jim Dale

Just Jim Dale: Still Carrying On
Vaudeville Theatre
28 May 2015
5 Stars

It is genuinely delightful to be able to report that anyone, child, adult, theatre sceptic or theatre lover, should have no hesitation in snaffling a ticket to the one man sensation that is Just Jim Dale, now playing at the Vaudeville Theatre after what can only be described as a glittering press night. Theatrical luminaries, critics, fans and audience members were seemingly all of one mind – Jim Dale is one hell of a performer.

The piece is written by Dale himself and is part autobiographical, part music hall, part reminiscence, part musical – and all finely calibrated and perfectly judged. Director Richard Maltby Jr. ensures the pace never lags and that there is variety and interest constantly.

Mark York is sublime on the piano, the perfect wry foil as well as a master musician who expertly accompanies Dale’s hit parade saunter – Me And My Girl, The Lambeth Walk, There Is A Sucker Born Every Minute, Colours Of My Life, The Museum Song and, of course, the world wide hit Dale co-wrote with Tom Springfield, Georgy Girl. York is assured in every style and keeps Dale perfectly afloat on a sea of nostalgic melody. Sheer delight.

Dale, who will be 80 in August, has the energy and physique of a man half his age. He is in astonishing shape, providing silly walks and dancing complicated steps with ease and style. The physicality of his comic delivery is as sharp as it was in the heady days when he starred in 11 Carry On Gang films.

It’s no surprise he has won Grammy And Audie Awards for his work with audio books, because his voice is still astonishingly supple, resonant, and he can imitate real people and create wild character voices with assured and convincing ease. From Michael Caine to Kenneth Williams, and with a touching story about an encounter in an elevator with a very short man in between, Dale can use his voice to establish mood and character in the same way Mozart uses musical notes – effortlessly and with a spark of pure genius.

To say more about the content would be a spoiler of the unforgivable kind. The beauty, the charm, the glory here is hearing Dale tell his story wisely and well.

There is noting to be improved on here. A world class star, first-rate material, simple but effective staging, wonderful musical support, superb lighting (Nick Richings), and a gentle, warm and captivating rapport between star and the audience.

There is nothing “just” about Jim Dale. He is one of the last, great, accomplished comic geniuses. If you have any interest in life or laughter, hurtle to the Vaudeville and grab a seat.

Only a sightless, deaf, mute baboon would not have a terrific time in Dale’s company in this show.


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