“I’ll fill the pages with the scrapbook of our lives”
Scrapbook Live was a showcase event for songwriters Verity Quade and Rob Archibald who assembled a hefty crew of West End pals to come along and sing on a Sunday night at Leicester Square Theatre. The pair released an album of the same name last year (which can be bought on iTunes and at Dress Circle) and many of the stars on the cd were here to perform those songs, plus other material that Quade and Archibald have written, both standalone songs written for specific events and from musical theatre projects on which they are working.
Despite having resolved to have a theatre-free weekend, I couldn’t resist popping along, both to support new British musical writing talent (previously unknown to me) and the unique opportunity to see an intriguing ensemble. Whilst there were names here who I knew and was looking forward to, Anna Francolini and Cassidy Janson in particular, there were others who I had seen previously but not necessarily been blown away by, Rebecca Lock and Stuart Matthew Price. There was also the added value of random things like seeing Rosemary Ashe sing for the first time and getting a sneak preview of Emily Tierney before she becomes Glinda in The Wizard of Oz.
Introduced and compered by Archibald with an onstage band led by Quade from the piano, much of the first half was taken with songs from their musical Thirtysomething. Musically it sounded a little in the vein of other contemporary composers like Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years or Laurence Mark Wythe’s Tomorrow Morning with its modern take on relationships, with witty songs like ‘A Clumsy Way to Fall in Love’ as sung here by Rebecca Lock and Archibald himself, and ‘Mr Right’ by Lock on her own, both impressing. Pleasingly, there’s also a gift for balladry here with Stuart Matthew Price’s gorgeous ‘Falling for You’ (sung especially brilliantly as Archibald got the running order mixed up and Price was summoned early) and Annalene Beechey’s impassioned ‘Sorry’.
Another strong section of the show focused on songs that they wrote for, if I heard Archibald correctly, their bid for Bridget Jones The Musical. Stuart Matthew Price returned for a lovely ‘Something About Her’, the radiant Cassidy Janson sang the wistful ‘Sometimes’ with a loveliness that made me glad I’ve booked for Company at the Southwark Playhouse in which she will feature next month and Rosemary Ashe delivered the show-stopping Don Juan as Bridget’s mother, a highly amusing number with some great rhymes (none of which I can remember now, obviously!)
The second half was also good, but with little or no information about the songs this time, it didn’t have quite the same level of engagement and stylistically it moved a little further from my personal tastes with a more American feel, elements of soul, even gospel creeping in. But there were still some fabulous performances: Rosemary Ashe continued to prove her comedic gifts with ‘The Singer’s Lament’, Anna Francolini’s ‘My Daddy’s Girl’ was lovely as was Jeff Nicholson’s ‘Please Stay’ but the highlight was the duet between Stuart Matthew Price and Richard Hartley, ‘Just Friends’, a gorgeously wistful duet between two guys negotiating that tricky transition from lovers to friends after their relationship breaks down, excellently sung and who doesn’t love a proper gay duet.
Altogether it was a most agreeable way to spend an evening which lived up to expectations with those I was looking forward to and definitely made me fans of both Stuart Matthew Price and Rebecca Lock, both of whom I shall be looking out for now. Quade and Archibald clearly have a lot of talent and if/when Thirtysomething makes an appearance in a theatre, I think it stands every chance of being a success from what we heard here. As shown in the final number, a cheeky duet called ‘Partners in Crime’, they have great chemistry together but throughout the evening, they also managed to show the breadth of their writing, both in terms of the range of styles and emotions covered and also in form, impressing with solo songs, duet, trios and even group numbers like the exquisite ‘Keep Breathing’ that closed the first half. Ones to watch? Just maybe so.