Julian Eaves paid a visit to Change Of Heart, a showcase of work by Estee Stimler and Yuval Havkin at The Other Palace, London.
Change Of Heart
Estee Stimler and Yuval Havkin have been writing pop songs together for some years, mainly based in Israel. More recently, they have been turning their attention towards a change of form and style: towards musical theatre. And now, a showcase has been presented of a baker’s dozen of their songs, given the portmanteau framing of a quirky, whimsical organ-replacement story-line: wife loves musical theatre, husband doesn’t care; husband gets a heart-transplant from a musical theatre actor, and suddenly their lives are filled with ‘numbers’ culled from the donor’s rep folder. As a plot, it needn’t detain us long, perhaps; however, this showcase focussed on the score and not the script.
The musical numbers are well produced for a trio featuring the composer-MD on keys, with percussion (Motti Cohen) and woodwind (Wesley Frankel). Each one has a strongly defined character and situation, and is cast from a widely varied selection of styles and modes. As a window into the versatility of this writing duo, ‘Change’ offers a generous spectrum of colours and moods. And, for the purposes of this concert, the line-up was top quality. In the role of Lilibet, the wife, Julie Atherton was in fine voice, with some dazzling top notes (for example, in the anthemic ‘Through The Looking Glass’, she perhaps came closest to crossing the bridge between musical theatre and getting an actual pop hit), and – as is always the case with this intelligent singing-actress – she found the story in every number, and told it beautifully. Playing opposite her as the ‘changed’ husband, Charles, the exciting Dominic Hodson, was an amiable foil, especially in the more off-beat and surprising numbers, like ‘Hamlet’s Lament’.
The actor, Melvin, was given to us by the warmly comic Jason Denton, clearly enjoying not having to be ‘alive’ anymore – and yet still able to relish vicariously memories of his repertoire; he was matched by the dramatic powerhouse that is the thrilling Natalie Williams as his agent, Marie. And the cast was completed by the splendid Charlotte Vaughan as ‘London’. And when the team came together to deliver the ensemble and chorus numbers, the effect was thrilling.
Stimler is also busy with other collaborations, including a forthcoming project with composer Ashley Walsh, who is a completely different sort of artist. It’s a great pleasure to welcome her to the fold of new musical-theatre-writing talent and we look forward to hearing much more from her in the future.