FRINGE REVIEW – Duke Special

*****

9 August, 1900 (2010) @ The Famous Spiegeltent

Duke Special is introduced by Mikelangelo, who gives us a song himself. It’s performed so beautifully that there is a worry the main event might not measure up. But when Duke Special himself appears and beings to draw us into a world of silent films, chauffeur-driven limousines and weekends in the country, any doubts dissipate like so much smoke.
Most of the songs Duke Special performs tonight are new works from a 3-CD set entitled “The Stage, a Book & the Silver Screen”, inspired by the silent films of Hector Mann, Kurt Weill’s unfinished Huckleberry Finn musical, and Duke Special’s own songs for a new musical production of the Bertholt Brecht play “Mother Courage”.
There is a wonderful sense of theatre here. The songs are incredibly evocative, with strong lyrics and narrative. The band, although polished and professional, give off a sense of barely-contained chaos; as though they could give in and let their raucous music carry us all away at any point. And Duke Special himself has a great sense of showmanship, with an expressive face and onstage antics to match the drama of the music. And of course there is the Spiegel Tent itself, a spectacular venue which is perfectly suited to this style of music and performance.
For all those lucky enough to be in the audience for this one-off performance, this is bound to have been an unforgettable night. Here’s hoping Duke Special will be repeating it soon.

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