ANTHONY NEWLEY: ONCE IN A LIFETIME

BONNIE GOLDBERG

Jon Peterson has successfully channeled the spirit, personality and talents of Anthony Newley, the British songwriter, singer, actor, director and dancer. From now until Sunday, November 27, the Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury will be alive and kicking up its heels with the sparkling sounds that Newley gave to the world. While his life was a bumpy road, made more difficult by his love of the ladies, Newley created a vast array of songs and musicals that make for a lasting legacy.

"He Wrote Good Songs," a line on Newley's gravestone, is making its Connecticut debut and was conceived and written by Peterson, who shines as the debonair and charismatic star. Born in London's East End, in Hackney, this Cockney lad was raised by his mum and a host of aunties after his dad deserted the family. Newley spent his life trying to compensate for the loss of a father figure and late in life found him and reconciled.

The scruffy son of music hall musicians, he took a job at a school that provided him with tuition in its acting program, where he was discovered at an early age. One of his first roles was as the Artful Dodger in "Oliver!" Hop-scotching from Britain to Broadway, he found a lot of success when he partnered with Leslie Bricusse. Along the way, he created incredibly lively and upbeat music like "Gonna Build a Mountain," "Candy Man," "Who Can I Turn To?," "On a Wonderful Day Like Today," "What Kind of Fool Am I?" and "Nothing Can Stop Me Now."

With many marriages, the most famous or infamous with Joan Collins, Newley was not the ideal husband or father material and his infidelities caused problems his whole life. His world frequently unraveled as he kept beginning again, trying to get it right the next time. Jon Peterson belts out the best of this hit parade of tunes, almost two dozen in all, and introduces us to the man and his music in an intimate and incredibly personal fashion. Seminar DeLaurentis directs this splendid portrait of the man who wrote good songs for the world.

For tickets ($38-57), call the Seven Angels Theatre, One Plank Road, Hamilton Park, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org. Performances are Thursday to Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Come discover or rediscover the magic and magnetism that Anthony Newley brought to the stage, courtesy of the genius that is Jon Peterson.

 

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