Andrew Umney writes New York love letter

Jessica Herbert and Andrew Umney, Picture: Andrew Ritchie d446582
Jessica Herbert and Andrew Umney, Picture: Andrew Ritchie d446582

DO not let Andrew Umney’s career in engineering fool you.

He is a huge lover of theatre and jazz to the extent of writing and producing last year’s award-winning cabaret show Speak Easy.

The Highgate creative, who sits on the board of independent theatre company The Last Great Hunt, enjoyed so much success with the show he has re-teamed with Bedford musical director Jessica Herbert for second instalment, The City So Nice, They Named It Twice.

Umney said the show was a love letter to New York City, a city he had visited half a dozen times during his work travels.

“I remember when I was eight and growing up in Albany, looking in our Funk and Wagnalls encyclopaedia and just falling in love with the idea of the Manhattan skyline,” he said.

“The first time I went there was when I was 25; getting off the train at Grand Central Station is exactly like it is in the movies.

“I fell in the love with its energy and vibrancy and that’s incredibly inspiring.”

The show features nine-piece jazz band Perth Cabaret Collective, led by Herbert on saxophone and the vocals of WAAPA graduate Taryn Ryan, who brings the narrative to life through dialogue and New York jazz classics.

“There’s a bit of a historical narrative that runs through the script,” Herbert said.

“It’s kind of a virtual tour of New York City through music so there’s something that’s based in Harlem, something in Broadway and so on.

“It’s that early style of jazz which was prominent in New York City at the Cotton Club.”

The 80-minute cabaret show has two acts and 17 songs, which Umney said were selected from “a very long shortlist”.

“As I was writing the piece and thinking about the narrative arc I could tell which songs were going to work to help convey the story,” he said.

“It became an organic experience.”


What: The City So Nice, They Named It Twice

Where: Downstairs at the Maj, His Majesty’s Theatre

When: November 26 to 28