Bravura display from a master of musical mickey-taking

First Night: Hans Liberg Purcell Room South Bank
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The Independent Online
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 last 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. To prove the point, one need only say two words: "Richard" and "Stilgoe".

Liberg, however, managed to hurdle those prejudices with a bravura display of musical mickey-taking in his show, International. In a 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, cymbal and symphonic whip - I kid you not - but also on a Power Ranger (for an idiosyncratic arrangement of the Toy Symphony, since you ask).

With his shaved head and all-white uniform, Liberg resembled an escapee from the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

If there is a complaint about International, it is that it's 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.

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

JAMES RAMPTON

Hans Liberg's "International" is at the Purcell Room, London tonight

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