The QT

Friday 14 June 2024

Review: Frognal & Fox: A Life in Song, Gosforth Civic Theatre

David Whetstone caught up with two curiously sparkly ‘fading’ performers on the road
Frognal (Jane Holman) & Fox (Zoe Lambert). Credit: Jason Thompson

Here’s a bit of glitter to brighten a leaden June evening (not that those summer stereotypes of sun and blue sky won’t have set in before the show rocks up at Middleton & Todbridge Village Hall at the end of the month, but I wouldn’t bet my shirt on it).

The idea is that two doyens of stage and screen are on the road paying homage to songwriting legends of MGM, Broadway and the like. 

Their setlist includes gems by Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, the Gershwins and Flanders & Swann.

They are Frognal & Fox – respectively Margaret and Adele, or ‘Froggy’ and ‘Foxy’.

They are also Jane Holman and Zoe Lambert, actresses blessed with fine voices; the former a contralto who can plumb the dark and sonorous depths, the latter who fizzes frequently into a higher register.

And fizz she does.

Adele Fox is the kind of performer who will appear with an accordion and a red nose to nip in the bud the applause that will surely follow her co-star’s moving rendition of Send in the Clowns. 

This to make amends for having hastily agreed to an engagement in Dundee that would scupper this tour of what she has called “all the great if slightly small places”.

We are led to believe that during their long acquaintance various hatchets have been buried. How they haven’t all ended up in Adele’s head is a mystery.

We are also in the presence here of stars for whom inverted commas are probably appropriate. They are ‘stars’ of the type who prove useful when casting directors need a dead body or someone to play multiple bit parts in a dodgy show touring off the beaten track.

On the flyers they are described as “fading”.

Two problems here. Firstly, in order to have faded, you have to have been radiant once. You don’t need to read between the lines to realise Froggy and Foxy don’t have Baftas and Emmys fighting for space in their smallest rooms.

And secondly, in Gosforth, in front of the plush red curtain, the pair positively sparkle, especially in the second half.

Sew on a Sequin, by Dillie Keane, could have been written for them. And the more the show goes on, the more gloriously sonorous Froggy becomes, in her twinkling blue, and the more fizzily hyper her companion in her effervescent red.

Also on stage, holding things together, is (in fiction as in life) musical director and keyboard accompanist Declan Flannery who, as himself, provides a highlight of the evening with some delicately served Rachmaninov.

Jane Holman as Froggy and Zoe Lambert as Foxy. Credit: Jason Thompson

Separating fact from fiction in this musical and dramatic confection caused me some philosophical palpitations. It’s less a show within a show than a show that is a show… if you get my drift.

The music, of course, is excellent – reason enough to get along to one of the many “great if slightly small places” on a tour put together by Carole Wears who knows more of them than most.

It all seemed so plausible and spontaneous, even allowing for the fact that the questions invited from the audience had been pre-conceived and distributed.

Credit, then, to writer Fiona Ellis for deftly framing a concert as drama – or vice versa – and director Cinzia Hardy for playing to the strengths of her creative team.

Assuming Froggy hasn’t hit home with a hatchet, both Frognal & Fox will almost certainly be serenading near you before the month is out, if you happen to live in one of those aforementioned places that barely merit the map.

For a full list of dates and booking details, visit the CaroleW Productions website


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