Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide To The Orchestra Review: In Tune
We’re not sure what Bill Bailey fans had in mind when they sat down in Royal Albert Hall for his “Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra.”
Alongside the BBC Concert Orchestra and Academy Award-winning conductor Anne Dudley, Bailey spends the entire program proffering his melodic wisdom onto us common folk.
The surrealist comedian turns didactic musician over the course of one-and-a-half hours. At least he still manages to make us laugh.
The good news is, this program still retains the essence of Bill Bailey: cocknified classics and pop-inspired parodies backed by piano, guitar, flute, and even that strange electronic theremin take form in a spoof on Chris de Burgh, a song about racial harmony called “Let’s Hear It For The Zebra,” and a rock opera aria about the invasion of creepy-crawlies, “Insect Nation.” All are rather amusing, especially with the BBC Orchestra’s satirically larger-than-life accompaniment.
But let’s not forget, Bailey is a classically trained performer with perfect pitch. It becomes obvious from the start that the “Remarkable Guide” is a rare opportunity for him to spotlight his inner musician. Probably the most inane aspect of the concert are the patronizing tutorials. Throughout, Bailey enlightens us with the history and properties of the flute and the oboe, described in language a 5-year-old would understand. Yawn.
There is no denying Bailey is a talented musician. Whether he is whizzing through concertos on the piano or producing a perfect F-sharp on the theremin (which is extremely hard to do), we can at least appreciate his utter skill. And really, there are plenty of good moments in the “Remarkable Guide”—his interpretation of the “Doctor Who” theme as a Belgian jazz jingle and a slapstick skit involving men in suits and tuned Alpine bells. And we have to applaud Bailey’s musical passion.
But with no real premise, it is hard for us to follow along, especially when we are expecting comical tunes and instead of forced-fed Rossini. The “Guide” is far from “remarkable,” but deserves an honorary mention.