Comedy: Shaved head, tall tales

HANS LIBERG PURCELL ROOM LONDON
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The Independent Culture
LIKE SAMMY Haggar or Def Leppard, Hans Liberg is big in Germany. But don't let that put you off.

This Dutch master is no Heavy Metal dinosaur, but a sophisticated musical comedian with a PhD in musicology from Amsterdam University and a specialist interest in Indonesian gamelan music and scat singing. His oh-so- refined brand of performance sat very snugly in the surroundings of the Purcell Room on London's South Bank on Thursday night.

Musical comedy is not generally a concept made to delight fans of either music or comedy; it can often fall embarrassingly between the two stools.

Liberg, however, managed to hurdle those prejudices with a bravura display of musical mickey-taking in his new show, "International". In a melodic whistlestop tour, he mocked everything from Bach to The Beatles.

Nothing if not versatile, he proved himself of soloist standard not only on piano, harpsichord, trumpet, recorder, guitar, drum, and symphonic whip, but also on Power Ranger.

With his shaved head, Schubert-esque specs and all-white uniform, Liberg resembled an escapee from the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He certainly has an unorthodox imagination. I mean, would you have dreamt of playing the sound of a mad cow on a rhythmical lap-top?

If there is a complaint about "International", it's that it is too bitty. Because the show was designed, Liberg tells us, for the seven-second- attention-span generation, it consists of lots of tasty, moreish morsels rather than a more sustained and nourishing banquet.

For all that, Liberg once had to earn his corn playing Kermit the Frog in a musical. With such an accomplished current repertoire, such humiliations should not be necessary in future.

This review appeared in some editions of yesterday's paper.

James Rampton

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