Revered actor and director John Bell and renowned pianist Simon Tedeschi are two of Australia’s best-loved artists and, in this remarkable collaboration, they take audiences back to all the brilliance and bedazzlement of the Jazz Age. With the upcoming production of Echoes of the Jazz Age at the Glen Street Theatre only weeks away, we asked actor and director John Bell five questions about this unique work.
How did you come up with the concept for Echoes of the Jazz Age?
Having enjoyed a couple of collaborations with Simon (Enoch Arden and Bright Star), I wanted to expand our repertoire to include Simon’s phenomenal talent in playing Jazz. There is a lot of very entertaining literature from the 1920s, so selecting samples was easy...But I realised that to really capture the Jazz age, we needed a singer as well, so we offered the gig to Blazey Best, a fine actress and terrific singer who really knows how to sell a number.
This is your third collaboration with pianist Simon Tedeschi, how did you begin working together?
We first met when Simon rang me out-of-the-blue and asked me if I would collaborate with him on Enoch Arden... I was thrilled with the opportunity and really relish our partnership.
What in particular drew you to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his essay?
I’ve loved Scott Fitzgerald’s writing ever since my university days when I was introduced to his works by fellow student Clive James. The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite books, and the essay Echoes of the Jazz Age is a gem. A number of extracts from it form the spine of our show.
How does preparation for a production like Echoes of the Jazz Age differ from a play?
We mostly rehearse individually, then come together for half a day to put the show together. We also perform with scripts in hand most of the time to remind people that this is a recital rather than a play. We pretend we are doing a radio broadcast.
What can audiences expect when they come to see Echoes of the Jazz Age?
Audiences can expect some fantastic Jazz piano playing and vocal renditions of some of the greatest hits of the 1920s, along with the suave wit of Scott Fitzgerald and contributions from a range of celebrities including Mae West, Groucho Marx, W.C. Fields, Dorothy Parker and T. S. Eliot.
Echoes of the Jazz Age will only be at Glen Street Theatre for two days this February, so book now to see the exceptional collaboration between two titans of the Sydney Arts scene.