Over The Rainbow - The Eva Cassidy Story
By Brian Langtry
The Haymarket, Basingstoke, and touring
Over the Rainbow - The Eva Cassidy Story is a wholehearted musical tribute to the life and talents of the singer/musician Eva Cassidy, superbly performed by Sarah Jane Buckley.
This production, written by Brian Langtry and directed by Stephen Leatherland, has been touring for over nine years and has received standing ovations throughout Europe.
Sparsely staged with a talented band at the back of the stage and a small truck used as the recording studio, images are projected onto the backcloth as Eva's life is narrated.
She was born in Washington DC in 1963 into a loving musical family and had a fairly normal childhood. She learnt the guitar and took singing lessons and by the time she was in her twenties she met recording engineer Chris Biondo, played by Jonathan Parker, and made a demo tape of her songs. They became romantically attached and Eva sings 'True Colours' to express her feeling for Chris.
Her career began to blossom and she eventually performs at the Blues Alley Club and sings with musical mogul Chuck Brown - a strong performance from Robert Grose.
Following an earlier diagnosis of cancer Eva's health was deteriorating. Her compassionate mother Barbara is played by the delightful Maureen Nolan who is impressive and her rendition of 'I Know You By Heart' was exceedingly moving. Eva finally succumbs to her cancer and you could not help but be touched by her singing of 'Autumn Leaves'. She tragically died at the age of 33.
There is some stirring support from James Gorton as Eva's domineering father with Brian Fortuna as her winsome younger brother and Alexis Strum as her sister together with Nick Sayce as Ned.
Undoubtedly the star of this show is Sarah Jane Buckley; she radiated warmth with a singing voice that sparkled throughout, whether it was performing the rousing 'Fields of Gold', the haunting 'Songbird', the feel-good 'Let the Good Times Roll', the dazzling arrangement of 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' and 'In My Golden Time', ending with the poignant 'What a Wonderful Life.'
This production does create a dilemma in that it falls between being a concert version of Eva's songs with a somewhat contrived narrative that links them together and musical about her life where the development is driven through the music.
Given that, if you are an Eva Cassidy fan - or, indeed, if this is your first exposure to her music - you will find Buckley's performance uplifting and engrossing.
Touring until March 2012
Reviewer: Robin Strapp