Together for the theatrical smorgasbord that is Only An Octave Apart, Justin Vivian Bond and Anthony Roth Costanzo are the oddest of couples and the most entertaining of pairings. Together in blissful anything-goes abandon for 90 minutes, they tick all the boxes – cabaret, comedy, camp, standards, opera and pop – with an A-plus in every column.
Non-binary Justin hails themselves, with an “A-them to that”, as “a vain cabaret legend” – a singer-songwriter, actor, performer and activist who came to fame in the early 90s as the Kiki half of Kiki and Herb and has since become a queer NYC luminary.
Over here, as they joke, you’re more likely to see them putting on a show in the basement of the Soho Theatre or in any toilet than in the historic Wilton’s Music Hall. Anthony, on the other hand, is a he/him countertenor who has performed everywhere from New York’s Metropolitan Opera to London’s Royal Opera House.
Wilton’s is the sweet spot between their different worlds and the show, with a song list that veers from Puccini to The Bangles via Bizet and Neil Diamond, fits perfectly into the unique venue. The multi-tiered stage, although murder on Viv’s heels, allows for audience interaction and rear-stage tableaux against grand swathes of blue and silver curtain in contrast to the faded glamour of the intimate surroundings.
There’s nothing faded about Bond. Their banter is as sharp as a fingernail on a blackboard, referencing Grindr, vintage shampoo and Van Gogh, and dubbing the English a bunch of C-words as a compliment rather than an insult. Costanzo is the perfect foil, a gentler but no less funny sidekick (“I was Jung once”) equally at ease with his sexuality in a show that celebrates queerness and diversity and goes by in an unpredictable whirl. Where else might you see a be-frocked duo dancing to Sylvester’s “Stars”, poignantly covering the Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush duet “Don’t Give Up” or encoring with “Walk Like An Egyptian”?
Anthony has the stronger voice, of course. He mostly sings in an upper range, like an opera-trained Jimmy Somerville or, during more comedic moments, Mary Sunshine from the stage version of Chicago. Justin’s pipes are more cracked and characterful, the sound of a life lived to the full. They’re backed by a nine-piece band, off to the side of the stage, who frequently crack up at their bon mots.
And they both look fabulous in Jonathan Anderson-designed costumes that range from black and silver dresses shaped like cars (complete with traffic cones for stools) to see-through ensembles adorned with feathers.
Bond’s motto throughout is “Keep it pretty, keep it shallow, keep it moving” and this often deliberately shallow but also often profound show ticks those boxes too. Hilarious, heartfelt, love-affirming and life-enhancing, it’s unique and not to be missed.