This show has a lot going for it, and that was a great motivator for a first time theatre goer. Love and Death features many of the songs that formed the soundtrack of my childhood, I could sing along confidently though there were a couple I couldn’t quite put a name to.
Toby Francis is also a performer that I have been meaning to check out since his career began, and he has just returned from a tour with the Ten Tenors.
For a long time I believed that Jim Steinman was synonymous with Meatloaf, having been born about the time the Bat Out of Hell album was released it was a lot of years before I even realised that Meatloaf was not just the stage name of Jim Steinman. Regardless of where the line was drawn between the words and the voice, I loved it. Meatloaf was a big part of the soundtrack to my childhood and I still love listening, I was actually just looking for one of the CDs the other day.
We took our places in a packed room, with only a handful of free seats, and waited for the lights to go down.
Opening with the spoken words of ‘Wasted Youth’ from Bat Out of Hell II, I got chills and they lasted the entire show.
Toby Francis is an incredibly gifted storyteller and performer who has placed Jim Steinman firmly in the spotlight and left me convinced of the truth of his story, as soon as I got home I took to Google to do some research – and try to place those few songs that were recognisably Steinman but whose voices I couldn’t place in my head.
Following ‘Wasted Youth’ is a perfectly pieced together medley of well known Steinman songs that ‘rang out beautifully’. I am going to have Steinman and Meatloaf running around in my head for days after this show.
Francis melds dialogue with the iconic Steinman tracks flawlessly, he takes on the character of Steinman and brings to life his struggles, his pain and his desire to get his vision of the rock opera adaptation of Peter Pan, titled Neverland, off the ground and onto broadway, even though he hasn’t settled on an ending yet.
We were first time audience members and I thought the show was pretty flawless, there was a bit of a technical glitch late in the show with some fuzziness to the sound but apart from that it seemed perfectly smooth. To then discover after the show that Francis isn’t well is a testament to his talent and his dedication because on stage you certainly couldn’t tell.
The way I’m rattling on you would think this was a one man show, but it wasn’t. Musical Director and tickler of the ivories Andrew Worboys offered dialogue with dramatic pitch, his ‘Hook’ was deep and raspy, resonant of Dustin Hoffman in Hook and it was utter perfection.
Love and Death also relies on the vocal talents of Josie Lane who lends her pipes to Holding Out For A Hero and Total Eclipse of the Heart and and I’m sure there were a couple more.
Francis has incorporated some huge Steinman hits that were not sung by Meatloaf, and that’s what had me trying to place the voices, into the Neverland narrative to become a cohesive story.
Steinman is a musical genius who definitely stamps his style on his songs and Francis tells his story, a story in which I could taste the bitterness that I hadn’t known anything about. Love and Death piqued my interest in Steinman and sent me searching for more information.
Toby Francis has a versatile voice which encompasses both the tenderness required of a ballad and the furious depths of guttural rock.
Written by Toby Francis
Directed by Neil Gooding
Musical direction and arrangements by Andrew Worboys
Production design by Lauren Peters
Love and Death was the perfect introduction to Cabaret for me and I will definitely be on the lookout for any other shows Francis performs in Adelaide. He is cast in an upcoming production of Kinky Boots and I have some very crossed fingers that we will get to see it here in Adelaide.
To check out some of the other fantastic shows playing as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival head over to the website: www.adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au.
For more information on Toby Francis and what he’s up to you can follow him on Facebook.