Nexus Arts
Until 10 Mar 2020

Review by Anthony Vawser

The poignancy that accompanies any musical tribute to Prince – passed away almost four years ago now – gives “Forever in My Life” a certain sadness, but also a level of depth that one might not necessarily expect from a typical entry in this genre of cabaret. By focusing on Prince’s musicality over his showmanship, this performance sheds light on aspects that have perhaps been relatively overlooked when it comes to this remarkable body of work.

Michael Wheatley has been in awe of His Majesty, the Purple One – and the man’s amazing artistic gifts – since the days of boarding school. Regaling his audience with a generally delightful and engaging account of growing up and following his show business dreams, alternated with a generous overview of Princely hits (a number of them made famous by female performers), plus a couple of borderline-indulgent ‘deep cuts’ for us die-hards, Wheatley’s tribute is a more-than-worthy one.

The ‘solo’ format (with only piano and voice) is sustained quite well across the hour, with only a couple of selections (‘Purple Rain’ and ‘When Doves Cry’ in particular) seeming malnourished and too minimalistic to have the kind of impact here that originally made them so memorable. On the other hand, many more tracks benefit from the skeletal arrangements, as they reveal the sturdy foundation in styles such as gospel and blues that Prince was both savvy and skilled enough to give them.

Wheatley’s own vocal style ranges from raspily soulful to fearlessly falsetto (which works better on ‘I Feel For You’ than ‘When You Were Mine’). The performance area is subtly and skilfully lit, while putting Prince’s famous ruffled shirt and stylish trousers on permanent display throughout is a nice touch.

Concluding the hour with ‘Sometimes It Snows In April’ (conceived as accompaniment to a cinematic death scene), followed by the title track, is exactly the right way to wrap things up. All hail the Prince – and hats off to Michael Wheatley for helping to keep this music alive, long after the artist bade us farewell.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)