There they are, ranked in order, the 104 most regularly requested songs from Richard Mercer’s long-running radio request show, Love Song Dedications.
Unassailable at the top, Celine Dion’s The Heart Will Go On. At the bottom, the Bryan Adams-Mel C banger When You’re Gone.
But which of all these songs – Unchained Melody, How Do I Live and Un-Break My Heart among them – is the ultimate love song, the one that says it all?
That, ostensibly, is the task devisor-performers Tom Hogan and Bonnie Leigh-Dodds set themselves in an affable post-theatrical exercise that pays cockeyed tribute to the honey-voiced Mercer’s 17-year stint as “The Love God”, whose honeyed tones we hear in recorded form.
Structurally, it’s a game of elimination, with Hogan and Leigh-Dodds raising objections to particular songs and crossing them off the list. For example, some songs are judged too creepy (so it’s goodbye Every Breath You Take) or model unhealthy dependency.
Other songs are dismissed as insincere because they were written by someone other than the person singing them. Tough call for all you Diane Warren fans.
Hogan takes a cerebral approach to the task. Leigh-Dodds, who want to feel the beating pulse of the song, prefers to react physically via high school eisteddfod-style dance routines.
But as the list gets shorter, tensions in the on-stage relationship start to crystalise. Woman walks out, dissatisfied by Man’s lack of emotional candour and reliance on spreadsheets. Man is confused by Woman’s outburst. Man finds himself alone. You all know how that song goes.
Unpacking ideas of objectivity and sincerity without ever really getting into the deep and meaningful, Love Song Dedications (Without Richard Mercer) playfully tickles those areas of the brain that light up in pub trivia quizzes while reminding us of our collective susceptibility to wringers like Eternal Flame and Burn For You. Hogan and Leigh-Dodds are appealing performers and build a quick rapport with the audience.
And the winner? The perfect love song? Wouldn’t dream of telling you. Someone with an absolutely encyclopedic knowledge of pop video might see it hinted at the show’s the slow release of clues. For everyone else, the final scene is a joyous singalong surprise.