“With grace and poise, not hate and noise”
Nestled in the basement of the newly-built St James Theatre in Victoria is a studio with an ambitiously varied programme of events that runs throughout the week but at weekends, it turns into a cabaret space hosting a range of singers from the world of musical theatre and beyond. And this Sunday saw the turn of songwriter and West End musical director Richard Beadle to showcase his work in a concert mainly featuring songs from his album, simply entitled Songs, sung by a host of West End stars.
The show was split into two halves – the first taking in songs from his musical work-in-progress Today Is My Day and the second, an assortment of other numbers from his songbook and from the albums of other people with whom he has worked – but unifying the whole evening was Beadle’s clear gift for songwriting. His ear for a clean and uncomplicated melody is perfect for the effective telling of story through song and so the simple but powerful emotions behind songs like the traumatic ‘1967’ delivered beautifully by Niamh Perry and the melancholy ‘Here We Are’, Rachael Wooding revelling in the chance to show a subtler side to her voice, shone through with an impressive lyrical naturalism.
His more comic numbers, from Today Is My Day at least, don’t have quite the lyrical heft and so rarely reached the same levels of distinguished impact. But away from his musical, there was greater success with Chris Thatcher and Jon Boydon both giving great life to some more light-hearted numbers, Stuart Matthew Price demonstrating a strong sense of character and some vocal fireworks on a handful of songs including one backed by the Arts Ed choir and Sabrina Aloueche coming pretty close to stealing the show with the delicately beautiful yet rousing Forever Young, backed with a deliciously retro sax solo.
The only real small criticism was that as a host, Beadle gave us perhaps a little too much chat in-between songs. This was useful in giving us the context for the first half material, locating the songs at their various places in the show from which they had been taken. But it also complicated matters a little unnecessarily – whereas the three highly diverse songs sung by the mother would all have been enjoyable in their own regard, knowing they belonged to the same character needlessly exposed the work still needed to be done.
But ultimately this was but a small complaint in what was a highly classy evening of musical entertainment. Beadle is undoubtedly a talented composer of nuance and skill and these intimate surroundings proved an ideal environment for he, and his talented collaborators, to show this off.