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  • Writer's pictureSarah

A review of 'Only an Octave Apart' at Wilton's Music Hall in London's East End

Updated: Nov 8, 2022


I don't think that I'll ever tire of visiting this beautiful and atmospheric venue; it's truly one of London's hidden gems. It makes any invitation to review a production here too difficult to resist. I have to admit to having some misgivings about this show ahead of time, I'm by no means an opera buff; I've only been to one opera in the open air at Holland Park - and hadn't felt inclined to repeat the experience. So, when the invitation came with one of the performers billed as a star of the Metropolitan Opera I was a little apprehensive, but also intrigued as to how this would work alongside the other performer with a track history as a cabaret star.

Two performers sitting on the edge of the stage. Justin Vivian Bond in a white lace dress.  Anthony Anthony Roth Costanz in black lace body suit
The swan and the crow. Photo credit Ellie Kurttz

Justin Vivian Bond is know as the queen of downtown cabaret, regularly holding court at clubs like Joe’s Pub, headlining at Carnegie Hall, they are described as ‘the greatest cabaret artist of their generation’ by New Yorker. Their interactions and quips with the audience, provided some of the highlights of the show, pointing at an audience member, "You look normal, what's it like?" And correcting Anthony when he says, "Amen", to "you mean 'AThem'".


Anthony Roth Costanzo is the star countertenor, his amazing high voice took me completely by surprise - it was faultless, clear and beautiful. If you want to catch him in an opera he'll be returning to the ENO in London in the spring in the title role of Philip Glass’s opera Akhnaten.


The premise is simple, combining their queer identities, to produce something unique. But the talent on display was anything but simple. We learnt how they'd met, and about their ensuing friendship - the affection between the pair was surprisingly touching.

One perfomer in front of a blue satin curtain, the second peeking through a gap in the curtain.
Singing in each other's style. Photo credit Ellie Kurttz

They took us on a journey though classical music, opera, to pop mash-ups. Together with 9 musicians, Bond and Costanzo performed some 20 numbers. They managed 4 costume changes as well! Their joy in performing together was obvious, and the part where they experimented with each other's song style, miming as the true singer sang behind the curtain was a lot of fun.


I've always loved the Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush duet of 'Don't give up', and this version was equally moving, and perhaps rather apt as Kate recorded 'Wow' at Wilton's. The full song list is given at the end of the article.

Finishing with Dido's 'White Flag', this is one show that won't be sinking. If you ever needed a reason to visit Wilton's, now you have it.

Performances until 22nd October 2022


Running time: 90 minutes without an interval


Bookings: Here


Address:

1 Graces Alley

London, E1 8JB


Nearest stations:

Tower Hill - tube and DLR then a 10 min walk

Aldgate East

Shadwell - around a 10 min walk

London Bridge - overground - I walked it in about 25 mins


Full song list and composers:


Only an Octave Apart — Ken and Mitzie Welch

Me and My Shadow — Al Jolson, Billy Rose, Dave Dreyer

One Charming Night -- From Henry Purcell’sThe Fairy Queen)

There Are Fairies at the Bottom of our Garden — Liza Lehman, Rose Fyleman, Settle Elkanah

Waters of March -- Antonio Carlos Jobim

Autumn Leaves — Jacques Prevert, Johnny Mercer, Joseph Kosma

Über Allen Gipfeln ist Ruh -- Franz Liszt, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Medley:

- If You Were the Only {we sayNORMAL} Girl in the World-- Nat Ayer, Clifford Grey.

- Habanera from Carmen-- Georges Bizet

- I Am I Said-- Neil Diamond

Crudel! Perche Finora from Le Nozze di Figaro — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

I’m Always Chasing Rainbows / Rainbow Sleeves — Harry Carroll, Joseph Allan McCarthy / Tom Waits

Stars (made famous by Sylvester)-- Patrick Cowley

Deh placatevi con me from Orfeo ed Eurydice-- Christophe Willibald Gluck

Don’t Give Up-- Peter Gabriel

Under Pressure — Brian May, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, Roger Taylor

Walk Like An Egyptian-- Liam Sternberg

Akhnathen-- Phillip Glass

Dido's Lament from Dido and Aeneas-- Henry Purcell

White Flag-- Dido Armstrong,

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