Monday, April 22

Alistair McGowan: The Piano Show – Cadogan Hall

Alistair McGowan’s show is a “game of two halves”, a unique blend of stand-up impressions and classical piano. McGowan’s self-titled debut album reached No 1 in the Classical Album charts, launching his rebranded career as a classical pianist. His second classical album has also just been released. In this new show, he combines his abilities as well-known impressionist and comedian with his more recent classical music talents.  His career so far has been as eclectic as this show; he starred in The Big Impression, one of the BBC’s top-rated comedy programmes for four years, has worked in the West End (Art, Cabaret, Little Shop of Horrors, Mikado), written plays and books and provided voice-overs for Spitting Image.

McGowan’s impressions are spot-on, with some well-known voices mixed with lesser-known figures from the worlds of politics, sport, TV and film. There’s a bit of political satire sprinkled in, but it’s done with an inoffensive light touch.  He cleverly mingles his intros to the classical composers with the impressions and contemporary jokes. Not all the jokes or impressions land, but the majority do and there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments in between the quiet concentration on the music. 

Having resumed playing piano only in his late forties, after reaching Grade 2 at the age of 9 before giving up in favour of football, McGowan demonstrates an innate affinity with the music. He plays with the sensitivity and clarity of a man who really understands the pieces he’s playing and who has clearly chosen the work of composers he loves. There’s a wide range of music from Gershwin, Chopin, Debussy to Glass and Satie, the well-known plus some possibly less well-known pieces by composers such as Yann Tiersen.

This is a show that really shouldn’t work. Somehow it does, the combination of faultless impressions and beautiful piano playing all driven by McGowan’s affability. The message from this enjoyable show is that you should never give up on a talent you love. It’s never too late. 

McGowan’s tour now continues to Canterbury, Hexham, Alnwick, Barnard Castle and Tetbury.  Tickets are on sale from:

Reviewer:  Carole Gordon

Reviewed: 17th May 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★