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Review: Only An Octave Apart (Wilton's Music Hall)

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

Review by Daz Gale


Unlikely partnerships have always been an interesting way to create something new, though to very mixed results. We’ve all seen “Odd couple” premises on both stage and screen but when you put together the greatest cabaret artist of their generation and a dramatically fearless countertenor. That’s the unique premise for Only An Octave Apart but could a mixture of two such contrasting worlds actually work?



Justin Vivian Bond is best known for their cabaret work, having played some of the most iconic venues around the world over the last 30 years both as a solo artist and as part of the legendary duo Kiki & Herb. Anthony Roth Costanzo is more used to performing at prestigious opera houses but a chance encounter with Viv in New York led to this collaboration which heads to London after playing in New York and spawning an album together.


In Only An Octave Apart, the worlds of cabaret and opera merge together with some surprising musical mashups in a show that is all about inclusivity, demonstrating that while these two different performance types aren’t so different after all and can come together to make something truly beautiful. Mixing classical music and pop to express their queer identities, Viv and Anthony have created something truly unexpected but something that can only be described as a work of art.



Justin Vivian Bond truly is a sensational performer – naturally funny and effortless, to the extent that even forgetting lyrics on stage still keeps the performance remaining flawless. Their banter with Anthony creates a new level to the performance, with the chemistry between the performance partners transcending beyond the stage in a way that is joyful to watch.


Very early on, Viv describes Anthony Roth Costanzo’s as “penetrating”. A more apt word can perhaps not be used with his heavenly tone truly mesmerising to witness. I may not claim to be a fan of opera personally, but his jaw-droppingly incredible voice made the art feel even more accessible and had me truly captivated from beginning to end.

The musical numbers on offer are truly varied but consistently stunning, with Dido’s Lament from Dido and Aeneas cleverly mixed with Dido’s ‘White Flag’ a fine example of how the differing worlds meld together.



A genius collaboration of Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ was a vocal highlight, while The Bangles' ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ paired with ‘Hymn To The Sun’ from the opera Akhnaten was an absolute performance masterclass. Collaborative numbers were paired with solo performances, with both Viv and Anthony getting a chance to truly show off their immeasurable talents to a truly enamoured audience. One inspired moment saw each mime to the others voice behind a curtain in a Singin In The Rain style sequence while other highlights including a gorgeous version of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s ‘Don’t Give Up’ and a disco moment with Sylvester's 'Stars'.


Flanked with a talented group of musicians effortlessly bringing together the varying performance types, the sound that resonated through the historic Wilton’s Music Hall pierced right through to your very soul, with the arrangements from Nico Muhly surely a work of genius. The Grade II listed building of Wiltons Music Hall provided a gorgeous setting that felt fitting of both performers, as opposed to their usual haunts of Soho Theatre and the English National Opera.



As well as fabulous musical numbers, Only An Octave Apart is also wickedly funny. From the moment Viv and Anthony appeared on stage with cars attached to their dresses and later attempted to sit on a traffic cone as opposed to a conventional stool, the tone for the evening was set, and as such it never faltered. With fantastic set ups and seemingly off the cuff moments, it was hard not to retain a smile throughout the show, with even a niche reference to King Charles III (which definitely went over a lot of peoples heads on the night I went) encapsulating the art of Vivs humour.


It may have regularly been funny, but Only An Octave Apart also had a lot of heart. With great direction from co-creator Zack Winokur, it brilliantly mixes the historical with the hysterical. An unashamed celebration of queer culture and performance in general, every aspect of this production from the fabulous costumes by Jonathan Anderson to the song choice makes this an incredibly well crafted show.



I may have been sceptical about the premise of this show due to my own personal taste when it comes to performance. It’s fair to say Only An Octave Apart well and truly took me by surprise - I fell in love with it instantly and never wanted it to end. Having previously seen Viv as part of Kiki & Herb, it was amazing to see the versatility of their talent and performance, and seeing Anthony for the first time instantly turned me into a fan. A highly talented pair of performers in a truly unique setting has led to an unexpected and inspiring piece of art. One of the most beautiful pieces of theatre I have experienced in a long time, no matter what reservations you might have, do yourself a favour and see this remarkable show.


★★★★★


Only An Octave Apart plays at Wilton’s Music Hall until October 22nd. Tickets from https://wiltons.org.uk


Photos by Ellie Kurttz

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