New Worlds: Bill Murray and Jan Vogler

New Worlds: Bill Murray and Jan Vogler

by jessicajolly / Jun 07, 2018 / 0 comments
Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Sitting in the bar of the Southbank Centre, my boyfriend looked at me and said “He's doing this show with a cellist. I think this might be... weird.”

“We're about to find out” is all I could reply. I had no idea what was in store, as I'd purposely done very little research, allowing Bill Murray to take us on whatever wacky adventure he had in mind.

It really wasn't that weird. It was a traditional concert with spoken word. Three musicians, cellist Jan Vogler, violinist Mira Wang, and pianist Vanessa Perez played a variety of numbers from classical, musical theatre, and rock n roll, with comedic actor Bill Murray on vocals. Most of the time his lyrics were spoken, as he read selections from Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain. But this wasn't a William Shatner w/ Ben Folds piss-take. Bill Murray re-enacted characters from literature using the breadth of his skills as an actor.

And then he sings. His voice may not be that of a Broadway or Rock star, but his rendition of Van Morrison's “When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God” was breathtaking. We think of the classic Bill Murray character as emotionally unavailable, a smart-ass, anti-hero or comedic villain too cool to connect to the characters around him. But live in the flesh, Murray poured every emotion into the stories and songs, inviting the audience to glimpse into the soul of the singular comedian. He made us laugh, prancing around the stage to “I Feel Pretty” and playing the drunk in “The Piano Has Been Drinking”. But the laughs were so effortless, it was as if he wasn't even trying.

Enough about the celebrity, though. The true star of this show is Mira Wang, the incredible violinist. Murray made a joke early on that if this wasn't what you were expecting, now would be a good time to go, because who wants to listen to this Wang's “chicken scratchings.” It is of course obvious to him that it's her talents that shine the brightest, as she executed some of the most beautiful stringed performances I've yet to hear.

Perhaps this show isn't for everyone. But I struggle to imagine the pleasures of the people this isn't for. If you like music, if you like stories and laughter, this is a show that features the finest of all those artforms.

The queue to buy the album after snaked around the lobby. So trust me, this isn't weird. It's fantastic.

Rating out of 11: