After the joys of concert #1 and concert #2, the third and final part of Graduates at Cadogan Hall wraps up this brilliant enterprise in fine style. Ameena Hamid Productions and The Grad Fest’s online showcase for 40 2020 and 2021 theatre graduates has been a delight to watch, a reminder of the breadth of talent out there who will rightfully be chomping at the bit to get careers started once we’re further down this infernal roadmap.
And it has been excellent across the board too. Musical director Sam Young does frankly astonishing work from the piano, sounding engaged and responsive to each and every one of the grads across a wide range of styles. And Andy James’ lighting design creates vivid backdrops throughout which you can see look fantastic in Danny Kaan’s shots below – click on each one to read a mini-review of their performance. Continue reading “Graduates at Cadogan Hall concert #3”
The first concert in the Graduates at Cadogan Hall offers a fantastic online showcase for 13 fresh musical theatre graduates
COVID-19 hasn’t been a great time for many people but it has been particularly cruel on those who would have graduated during this time, robbing them of those rites of passage but also for theatre grads, the more valuable opportunity to showcase their talents. Graduates at Cadogan Hall is the brainchild of Ameena Hamid Productions and The Grad Fest, offering an online showcase for 40 2020 and 2021 graduates, who got to sing at Cadogan Hall with the brilliant Sam Young accompanying them, whilst also supporting the Acting for Others charity.
The programme is divided into three separate hour-long concerts and this first one has a whole raft of special guests, introduced as it is by Grace Mouat and sprinkled with gorgeous messages of support from those who know exactly what the struggles are, from the fabulous Anika Noni Rose, Alexia McIntosh, Gary Wilmot and Juliet Stevenson too. And since the concert is about celebrating all of these performers, I’ve opted to do things a little differently with this posts, giving everyone their moment to shine. So click on an image, read little mini reviews of their performances and get connected with them on socials to get their careers kickstarted in this different way. Continue reading “Graduates at Cadogan Hall concert #1”
A trio of music reviews with Marisha Wallace’s album Tomorrow, Shan Ako’s EP Brave Heart and the original concept album of Soviet Zion
“I’m gonna shine out like a beacon in the night”
Watching some of the most recent musical theatre treats streaming over the last couple of weeks has proved a useful reminder of the need to catch up with the music that some of those performers have been releasing. Marisha Wallace dropped a Christmas EP a few years back but Tomorrow, released through Decca Records, marks her full debut album. Robbed of the chance to round out her run in the pandemic-curtailed Waitress last year, Wallace’s attention turned to curating and creating the inspirational focus for this collection.
The result is a nifty if eclectic blend of musical theatre and pop songs, with a few original tracks thrown in for good measure. And at its best, its soulful power is highly effective. A repurposed ‘Tomorrow’ from Annie, a delicate trip through Kacey Musgrave’s ‘Rainbow’ and the driving pop of ‘Before I Go’ form part of a powerful first half of the album. That level doesn’t quite maintain for me on a Side B that doesn’t demand relistening quite as much but those high spots make this a definite recommendation for your playlists. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Marisha Wallace – Tomorrow / Shan Ako – Brave Heart / Soviet Zion”
Sophie Evans, Alice Fearn, Emma Hatton and Laura Pick have a wicked time in the rain at the West End Musical Drive In
“Are you here to distract me
So I make a big mistake?”
The third instalment of the West End Musical Drive In’s streaming offer (reviews of episode 1 and episode 2) sees them land with a Wicked focus, spotlighting four current and recent members of the West End cast, along with a cheeky guest appearance from Carl Man. So it was Sophie Evans, Alice Fearn, Emma Hatton and Laura Pick taking their individual moments to shine in the pouring rain of a Great British summer.
As with the first, co-producer Shanay Holmes acted as MC with an ever-impressive amount of energy and also taking the opportunity to show off her mighty fine vocals with a song or two herself (the closing ‘One Night Only’ is standout). And over an hour and 40 minutes or so, we’re treated to a range of musical theatre classics from some pretty powerhouse vocalists. Continue reading “Review: West End Musical Drive In, Episode 3”
An album review of Joel Harper-Jackson’s So What Happens Now? and inspired by Marry Me A Little last night, I explore Makerman and Rob Houchen
“I don’t care if it hurts
I wanna have control”
Released just as the second lockdown kicked in, Joel Harper-Hackson’s debut album has ended up with a painfully apposite title – So What Happens Now?. I first spotted Harper-Jackson a few years as a standout in a middling new musical and have enjoyed following his career since then, not least in the Hope Mill’s gorgeous production of Little Women. Interestingly, this album largely eschews the world of musical theatre for the world of popular music, albeit reimagined through the wonderfully moody arrangements of Greg Morton.
Piano, guitar and cello thus come to the fore to underscore mournful takes on ‘Jolene’ and ‘The Man That Got Away’, the quavering vocal at the beginning of ‘Another Suitcade in Another Hall’ really refocuses the song’s emotion, and the shivering sparseness of ‘Wicked Game’ hits harder than usual, especially once the dramatic stakes are raised. Unexpectedly effective though is the duet on ‘Tragedy’ with Jodie Steele which utterly reinterprets the rueful acceptance of the song in a way which makes complete sense. ‘Creep’ with Lauren Byrne is pretty damn good too. If ever there was an album to cry-listen to whilst looking through a rainy November window and eating a packet of biscuits, this is that album and this is that moment. Highly recommended. Continue reading “Album Review: Joel Harper-Jackson – So What Happens Now? / Makerman – Grove Hill / Rob Houchen”
Rob Houchen and Celinde Schoenmaker star in a beautifully sung, beautifully filmed digital version of Sondheim’s revue Marry Me A Little for the Barn Theatre
“What can you do on a Saturday night alone?”
The ever-enterprising Barn Theatre in Cirencester are getting particularly good at making lemonade out of lockdown lemons and so it is little surprise to see that their production of Marry Me A Little, which had its run curtailed by the imposition of Lockdown #2: Electric Boogaloo, is now available to stream for a limited period, thus exponentially increasing its reach.
Recorded over its final performances by Ben Collins, the work of editor Ben Evans (with Collins co-editing and also with sound editor Harry Smith) shouldn’t be underestimated. They have done a remarkable job in translating Kirk Jameson’s directorial vision onto screen, the film is as slickly professional as you could hope to dream of, with just enough texture in there to remind you it is live theatre. Continue reading “Review: Marry Me A Little”
Following an online concert that took place earlier this year, Kings of Broadway will entertain live audiences this December. The musical celebration will take place at the Palace Theatre on 9th December, just a week after the upcoming England lockdown is said to end.
Over 30 performers will come together for the concert, celebrating music of Jule Styne, Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim. Styne wrote the music for Gypsy and Funny Girl, with Hello, Dolly! by Jerry Herman and Company by Sondheim. Continue reading “News: Kings of Broadway live concert announced”
Episode Two of The Theatre Channel takes its Halloween theme and has a ball with it, with brilliant performances from the likes of Linzi Hateley, Jordan Shaw, Bradley Jaden and Sophie Isaacs
“It’s a matter of time before London belongs to us”
After a highly successful debut, Episode 2 of The Theatre Channel arrives and things have gone a bit Strictly with a theme week. Natch it is Hallowe’en that acts as a linking thread between the performances here but unlike Strictly, it is pleasingly effective as the production design (by Gregor Donnelly) gets to play with a more cohesive visual language across the show (credit too to director Bill Deamer and DP Ben Hewis), and the song selection gets to go a bit dark and dramatic.
That’s not to say that there’s not a variety of tone here. As befits this holiday, there’s a healthy dose of camp as a CGI-enhanced Ria Jones casts her spell over Into the Woods’ ‘Last Midnight’ and the camp drama of Frank Wildhorn’s ‘Life After Life’ from Dracula the Musical is well served by the relatively straight bat and sensational voices of Bradley Jaden and Sophie Isaacs. The same goes for Josh Piterman’s dangerously seductive take on ‘The Confrontation’ from Jekyll and Hyde. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Two”
A canny choice of material means you’re as likely to find Selena Gomez as showtunes on Laura Benanti’s excellent debut studio album Laura Benanti
“I wish there was something I could do to make you smile again”
Tony Award-winner Laura Benanti has long been a performer I’ve loved, I’m always a sucker for such a legit soprano, so it was a bit of a surprise to clock that Laura Benanti is actually her debut studio album. Over the years she’s been a part of some top cast recordings and released a cracking live set, but with this release, she has created a marvellous album that feels equally at home in the cabaret club as it does reclining at home on your chaise longue with a Manhattan in hand.
It’s a varied selection of tracks to be sure, with musical references from Rufus Wainwright to Rosemary Clooney, Sondheim to Selena Gomez, Julie London to the Jonas Brothers. But remarkably, it all feels so beautifully, smoothly cohesive, a collection truly united by the interpretative skill of a genuinely engaged and engaging performer. Continue reading “Album Review: Laura Benanti – Laura Benanti”
Reviews of a trio of excellent albums: Marie Oppert – Enchantée, Kim David Smith Live at Joe’s Pub and Siobhan Dillon – One Voice, all recommended
I do love me a soprano and discovering a new one feels like as good a way to spend lockdown as any. Marie Oppert is a French singer and actress whose debut, at age 17, came in a major concert version of a little-known show called Les Parapluies de Cherbourg… From those Michel Legrand-sanctioned days, she has established a notable career and now releases her first solo album Enchantée. Back by the luscious sound of the Orchestre National de Lille and conductor Nicholas Skilbeck, this collection sees Oppert explore a bilingual songbook that stretches from the boulevards of Paris to Broadway.
The result is something rather glorious. The sumptuous treatment of the likes of ‘The Light in the Piazza’ and ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ are near ecstatic, ‘Children Will Listen’ in French brings a new dynamism to a familiar piece, and characterful duets with Melissa Orrico and Natalie Dessay, whom she charmingly terms her “two Franco-American ‘fairy godmothers”, both impress. The irrepressible energy of 1938 track ‘Y’a d’la joie’ is an absolute standout and an interpretation of Billy Elliott’s ‘Electricity’ has no right to be as effective as it is here. Sod’s law though, Oppert is playing in London next month but bloody Covid restrictions means I can only go by buying a table for two. Continue reading “Album reviews: Marie Oppert – Enchantée / Kim David Smith Live at Joe’s Pub / Siobhan Dillon – One Voice”