Only an Octave Apart

Justin Vivian Bond, Anthony Roth Costanzo and Zack Winokur
Creative Partners Productions and Kindred Partners in association with Justin Vivian Bond, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Zack Winokur and St. Ann's Warehouse
Wilton's Music Hall

Justin Vivian Bond and Anthony Roth Costanzo Credit: Ellie Kurttz
Justin Vivian Bond and Anthony Roth Costanzo Credit: Ellie Kurttz
Anthony Roth Costanzo Credit: Ellie Kurttz
Justin Vivian Bond Credit: Ellie Kurttz

What do you call it when an American cabaret star and an opera countertenor join forces on stage? A recital is far too tame for this extravaganza created by Mx Justin Vivian Bond and Mr Anthony Roth Costanzo which director Zack Winokur has ensured is a piece of real theatre.

It is simply but lushly staged. Designer Carlos Soto provides luxurious tableau curtains and gauzes and a paper moon. John Torres has designed the real lighting, which ranges from subtle to dramatic or pulsing disco to match the mood. Costumier Jonathan Anderson provides gowns that sparkle, nifty outfits and hats in black and white and they start the show in dresses with skirts that seem to be stretched over miniature motor cars. If they give a reason for that, I missed hearing it, though since traffic cones are also brought out to precariously sit upon, there may well be one.

They start the show with chat that explains their collaboration, which seems between equals, though Justin (the only one who gets jewellery) is taller and seems sometimes protecting a protégé-like little Anthony. The commentary is kept up between numbers and can be very funny and at times a witty celebration of trans and queer identity, though the delivery is sometimes too transatlantic and throwaway to fully register with a British audience. The singing, however, is spot on.

Costanzo is soon into a number from Purcell’s Fairy Queen while Bond gives us “There Are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden” and the mix and match continues with Liszt, Gluck and more Purcell from Costanzo who also sings the roles of both the Count and Susanna in an extract from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, while Bond ranges from “I Am Always Chasing Rainbows” and “Me and My Shadow” to songs by Jobin and Peter Gabriel.

Bond sings a beautifully staged version of “Autumn Leaves” which Costanzo points out owes a direct debt to Massenet and we get an extract from Akhnathen by Philip Glass, the role for which he is probably best know here.

At times, it seems like a competition between them but a friendly one that ends in a draw. On the way, they have great fun in a sequence inspired by the Singing in the Rain dubbing scene: Costanzo sings the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen backstage while in view, Bond lip-synchs it perfectly. Swapping places, they then do the same with Neil Diamond’s “I Am, I Said”.

Near the end of their programme, they come together in powerful renditions of Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” and the Queen / Bowie song “Under Pressure”. The range of these performers keeps surprising. For ninety minutes without an interval, they entertain and delight with their music-making which is shared with an excellent chamber orchestra directed from the piano by Daniel Schlosberg. Only An Octave Apart certainly makes you want more—and with luck they will have an encore ready.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

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