The Barricade Boys announce a Christmas Cabaret season with an amazing guest cast

As Mrs Merton might have asked, what first attracted you to musical theatre supergroup The Barricade Boys…?

Clearly, it was their cumulative musical talent – between them, Scott Garnham, Simon Schofield, Craig Mather and Kieran Brown have racked up credits in pretty much every major musical from The Phantom of The Opera, Wicked and Billy Elliot to Jersey Boys, The Sound Of Music and Les Misérables. And now they’re bringing their cabaret show to The Other Palace’s Studio for a Christmas season which is enough to bring festive cheer to even the most Scrooge-like of hearts.

But not content with filling our stockings thus, they’ve gone through their contact lists to find a frankly astonishing array of guest stars to accompany them across the entire run, making it nigh-on impossible to choose just one night to go along.

The full line up of guest stars:
Tuesday 5 December Gary Trainor (Dewey Finn in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock at the New London Theatre)
Wednesday 6 Oliver Savile (Fiyero, Wicked, Apollo Victoria Theatre)
Thursday 7 Michael Xavier (two-time Olivier Award nominee, Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard; The Prince of Broadway)
Friday 8 Nadim Naaman (Raoul, The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre; Anthony Sweeney Todd, Harrington Pie & Mash Shop)
Saturday 9 (matinee) Rachel Tucker (Elphaba in Wicked in the West End and Broadway; Sting’s The Last Ship, Broadway)
Saturday 9 (evening) Simon Bailey (Tommy DeVito, Jersey Boys, West End; Raoul, The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre)
Monday 11 Liam Tamne (Frank N Furter, The Rocky Horror Show; Raoul, The Phantom of The Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre) & Andy Coxon (Berger in Hair, The Vaults; Mitch, Yank, Charing Cross Theatre)
Tuesday 12 Jon Robyns (Princeton/Rod in Avenue Q, Noel Coward Theatre; Robbie Hart, The Wedding Singer, UK Tour)
Wednesday 13 Caroline Sheen (Alaura/Carla City of Angels, Donmar Warehouse; Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins, US Tour) & George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (award-winning composers of Half a Sixpence, Betty Blue Eyes, Honk! and The Wind in the Willows)
Thursday 14 (matinee) Killian Donnelly (currently Valjean in Les Misérables, Queen’s Theatre; Deco, The Commitments, Palace Theatre; Huey, Memphis, Shaftesbury Theatre, Charlie, Kinky Boots, West End & Broadway)
Thursday 14 (evening) Sabrina Aloueche (Scaramouche, We Will Rock You, Dominion Theatre; Eponine, Les Misérables, Queen’s Theatre)
Friday 15 Emily Tierney (Glinda in the first UK &Ireland tour of Wicked, Glinda, The Wizard of Oz, London Palladium)
Saturday 16 (matinee) Shona White (Florence Vassy in Craig Revel Horwood’s award winning UK touring production of Chess)
Saturday 16 (evening) Sophie Louise Dann (Celia The Girls, Phoenix Theatre; Barbara Castle, Made in Dagenham, Adelphi; Paula, Bend It Like Beckham the Musical, Phoenix Theatre)
Monday 18 David Shannon (The Phantom, The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre; Valjean in Les Misérables, Queen’s Theatre) & Rob Houchen (Marius, Les Misérables, Queen’s Theatre; Fleet, Titanic, Charing Cross Theatre)
Tuesday 19 Luke Kempner (Comedian, impressionist, actor and singer, The Only Way Is Downton, West End; Marius in Les Misérables) 
Wednesday 20 special TV and Film star guest to be announced 
Thursday 21 (matinee) Laura Pitt-Pulford (Olivier Award nominated as Milly Bradon, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; Side Show, Southwark Playhouse; Barnum, Menier Chocolate Factory)
Thursday 21 (evening) David Thaxton (Javert, Les Misérables, Queen’s; Pilate, Jesus Christ Superstar, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; Giorgio, Passion, Donmar Warehouse, Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical)
Friday 22 Jacinta Whyte (Eponine, Les Misérables, Palace Theatre; Linda, Blood Brothers, Phoenix Theatre; Ellen, Miss Saigon, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
Two lucky people will win the chance to appear on stage with The Barricade Boys at the two shows on Saturday 23 December. All you need to do to be in with a chance is tweet a youtube video link singing a Christmas song to @BarricadeBoys. The Barricade Boys will decide the winners by Monday 11 December.

Scott Alan announces Live at Zédel residency with special guests in 2018

Live At Zédel, Soho’s unique live entertainment concept at The Crazy Coqs, will host a week-long residency by acclaimed international songwriter Scott Alan, who will be joined by a host of special musical theatre guests each evening. Audiences will be treated to Scott, along with his special guests singing tunes from all 7 of his recordings and brand new songs from his upcoming release, Lifeline.

The schedule for the special guests joining Scott Alan is:
Sunday, January 28th – Alice Fearn, Sophie Evans and Bradley Jaden
Monday, January 29th – Matt Henry and Amy Lennox
Wednesday, January 31st – Tyrone Huntley, Kayleigh McKnight and Tim Newman
Thursday, February 1st – Natasha Barnes, Shanay Holmes, Jodie Steele, Shona White and Emma Williams.
Sunday, February 4th – Marisha Wallace, Asmeret Ghebremichael and Joe Aaron Reid
Scott Alan says: 

“I’m honoured to have been asked to return for another residency at Zedel. Taking the stage at this beautifully, intimate venue is the perfect way to celebrate a brand new year and teaming up with some of the biggest names in the London theatre scene is just icing on the cake!”

Sunday, January 28th, 2018 at 7pm
Special guests include Wicked trio Alice Fearn, Sophie Evans and Bradley Jaden
Monday, January 29th, 2018 at 7pm
Special guests include Olivier Winning Actor Matt Henry (Kinky Boots), Olivier nominated actress Amy Lennox, who earned rave reviews for her role as Lauren in the original West End cast of Kinky Boots
Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 at 7pm 
Special guests include Olivier Nominated Actor Tyrone Huntley (Jesus Christ Superstar), Tim Newman (Memphis) and Kayleigh McKnight (Les Misérables), whom Huntley recently appeared with in the Regent Park Open Air Theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Thursday, February 1st, 2018 at 7pm 
“It’s Ladies Night” and special guests including Natasha Barnes (Funny Girl), Shanay Holmes (Rent), Jodie Steele (Wicked), Shona White (Mamma Mia!) and Emma Williams (Half a Sixpence).
February 4th, 2018 at 9pm
Special guests include Dreamgirls star Marisha Wallace along with her co-stars Joe Aaron Reid (Curtis Taylor Jr.) and Asmeret Ghebremichael (Lorrell Robinson). 
For full information on each evening and to book tickets please visit

Album Review: Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs – Live at the Cafe Carlyle (2015)

“How could I behave as if we’d never met?”

Recorded just after he completed his 2014/5 return to Cabaret at Studio 54, Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs – Live at the Cafe Carlyle is one of the best cabaret records I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. Surprising but superb song selection, threaded through with a real sense of personality and personal revelation, draws the listener in right from the off, even if he storms just a fraction too quickly through Annie Lennox’s glorious solo hit ‘Why’, he next invests Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ with a genuinely rueful quality that hints at what is to come.
And if the label ‘sappy’ might suggest something inconsequential, make no mistake that this is deeply emotional work. From Miley Cyrus’ ‘The Climb’ to the plangent ‘Complainte de la Butte’, to showier material that Cumming more obviously has an affinity with, like Kurt Weill’s ‘How Do Humans Live’ and the utterly gorgeous ‘You You You’ from Kander and Ebb’s The Visit, to the almost unbearable emotion underpinning the likes of Billy Joel’s ‘Goodnight Saigon’ and Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Dinner at Eight’.
His anecdotes also rise above the average due to their humour – Cyrus winning his respect, spoiling the mid-season finale of The Good Wife which was airing that night – their candour – that tattoo tale! – and the real insight that they provide to the song choices in the much more personal revelations of family history. Horne’s arrangements are beautiful throughout, making the absolute most of Eleanor Norton’s gorgeous cello playing, especially in the surprisingly beautiful Adele/Lady Gaga/Katy Perry mash-up. 
So too in the irreverent Sondheim pisstake ‘No One Is Alive Not While I’m Around’, Cumming’s innate musicality, aided and abetted by Horne’s musical direction, just shines through. And none more so than in the affecting trifecta that closes this set – Billy Joel’s And So It Goes into Noël Coward’s If Love Were All into an eventually rousing take on Sondheim’s Ladies Who Lunch. It really just a superb record and one I highly recommend.

Review: A Spoonful of Sherman, Live at Zédel

“Theyre bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy
Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun”

A Spoonful of Sherman was previously seen at the St James Theatre (as was) in April 2014 but such is the warmly nostalgic hold of the Sherman Brothers’ songwriting, it is little surprise to see it re-emerge – this time in the plush surroundings of Brasserie Zédel’s cabaret space. The show has slimmed down its personnel from 4 to 2, Helena Blackman and Daniel Boys taking up the singing duties, with third generation songwriter Robert J. Sherman stepping in once again as narrator.
And I have to say I felt largely the same about A Spoonful of Sherman – it is a stronger show when Sherman Jnr is on the sidelines. One can understand the justifiably enormous pride he has in his family’s heritage, and in bringing this show to life, but the frequent interjections to sketch biographical insight don’t quite work in this format – its the stuff of programme essays to be honest and you can’t help wonder if his role might be more usefully reduced to a choice few bon mots.
For the unalloyed joy comes in the music, led superbly by Christopher Hamilton from the piano, taking in any number of hits from one of the most celebrated songwriting partnerships ever. From Mary Poppins to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book to Winnie the Pooh, this is the sound of so many childhoods from so many generations brought once again to blissful musical life in the captivating vocal blend of Blackman and Boys, whose musical chemistry radiates from the stage. 
There’s variety too in the programme selection, dipping into some of the not-quite-as-famous songs from those soundtracks, which adds interest and also switches up the mood from being too saccharine sweet – it’s only one spoonful we need after all and at 85 minutes, you can forgive most of the indulgences here.
Running time: 85 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 20th August

Album Review: Annaleigh Ashford – Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below

“The little dark star in the wind down there”

Though she’s yet to pop her head over this side of the ocean, I’m pretty sure Annaleigh Ashford is an absolute darling. It’s part of the legacy of playing Lauren in Kinky Boots I think, such a lovable part and what I’ve seen and heard of her since has only confirmed that for me. Her acclaimed cabaret performances also won over new audiences, resulted in a live recording of Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below being released late last year.
Supported by the superb musicianship of Will Van Dyke and The Whiskey 5, Ashford is an effortlessly delightful performer, whether ripping through the vocal splendour of Dreamgirls‘ ‘One Night Only’ or a Donna Summer medley, nodding to Studio 54’s illustrious past. There’s actually a lot of pop on here, The Everly Brothers’ ‘Love Hurts’, Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ mixed with Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ 
Live recordings always have to tread a careful path of replicating the atmosphere of a live show whilst acknowledging that not everything will always translate. Such it is with an audience participation version of Alanis Morissette’s ‘Hand In My Pocket’ which doubtless was great fun to be part of, but which quickly loses its charm here. And as lovely her solo trip through Wicked’s ‘For Good’ is, it feels like a muted mis-step so late in the programme.
But I’m just being picky, for when Ashford is good, she is just superb. The medley of Sondheim’s ‘Another Hundred People’ and Elton John’s ‘Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters’ is tenderly perfect, the treatment of ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’ with an interpolation of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ is exquisite, and Kurt Weill’s delicate ‘Lost in the Stars’ is a subtle yet impassioned ending. Someone cast her in something in the UK please (or bring over her Sunday in the Park with George with the delectable Jake Gyllenhaal).

Album Review: Laura Benanti – In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention – Live At 54 Below

“She speaks in sorry sentences
Miraculous repentances”

Appearances may be deceptive but the force of personality that Laura Benanti brings to all her work, whether tweeting or tearing up the Broadway stage, makes me think that she’s just a top human. Witty and irreverent on the one, committed and forceful on the other – either way round, she’s a one for forging her own path.

And that’s in evidence on the song selection for her 54 Below cabaret show In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention. From showtunes to the showgirl herself Lana Del Rey, rewritten classics to self-penned ditties, it’s undoubtedly an eclectic mix but one that is held together by the huge warmth that Benanti exudes, whether in performance or in the (frankly hilarious) patter where she proudly details her flops.

So she shines on that del Rey medley of ‘Starry Eyed’ and ‘Video Games’ just as much as on Maury Yeston’s ‘Unusual Way’; a relatively straight ‘I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore’ (from Gigi) is just as charismatic as the inimitable version of ‘On the Street Where You Live’ which has been tailored for the occasion. Benanti’s personality really does shine through at every opportunity and thus makes this a rare cabaret album which you’ll want to listen to every minute of.

CD Review: Patti LuPone – Far Away Places, Live at 54 Below (2012)

“You couldn’t ever guess to who you’re talkin'”

I loved La LuPone’s Matters of the Heart and so I happily turned to her 2012 live album the inaugural entry in the Live at 54 Below series which has now established itself as the premiere place for Broadway stars to get their cabaret on. It doesn’t quite hit the same heights though, live recordings often finding it tricky to translate what works so well in an intimate atmosphere onto record without making it feel like you’ve missed out.
And LuPone is such the consummate performer that there is an element of that here, her anecdotes skilfully woven into the repertoire, mixing up detailed stories with pithy one-liners (and of course a reference to her epic mobile phone meltdown) with skill and aplomb. It’s like you’re there, except you’re not and never will be and if you’re not as well-adjusted as me, you might find such realisations provoke inordinate jealousy! 

More significantly though, I just didn’t like the song selection as much as I thought I would. Centred on the theme of travel, it works in a whole lotta Brecht with its Sondheim and Cole Porter and no matter how entertaining the performance level is, it just doesn’t grip me as much. The reprise of Piaf pastiche ‘I Regret Everything’ gains nothing in its live version, detracting from the following stirring rendition of ‘Hymn To Love’. The Threepenny Opera’s ‘Pirate Jenny’ is a rare high-point but too often, my mind wandered whilst listening to this collection, which is really not you want.

Review: An Evening with Matthew Strachan & Guests, St James Studio

“You’ll enjoy the thrill because you can”

There’s an event at the St James Studio in a couple of weeks called Sunday at the Musicals which has over 20 female singers coming together to celebrate the world of musical theatre, showing off what can be achieved in the freedom of the one-night cabaret form. Which just goes to point up the relative disappointment of a night called An Evening with Matthew Strachan & Guests which just managed the two, with one song a piece.
Strachan is a composer of considerable credits (as per Wikipedia) but has the ignominy, or perhaps renown, of being best known for writing the theme tune to TV show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. And as we discover throughout the couple of hours of his show, there’s much more to his back catalogue, with time spent in Nashville writing for others providing an anecdote or two to accompany the material.

His writing style is very much focused on character-driven songs, often comedic, centring on the quirkier side of life but in all honesty, the evening only really came to life when his guest stars were performing – a moving Wendi Peters and a powerful Abigail Matthews both nailing their song. And I’d go so far as to wager that Strachan feels happier as an accompanist than performer, which is a bit of a problem when your show is heavily balanced the other way.
An Evening with Matthew Strachan accompanying his many guests would prove a much more satisfying evening for all concerned.

Review: Simon Lipkin, Jon Robyns and Giles Terera, Orange Tree

“Thank God we’re not in Thriller”
The Orange Tree Theatre continues to ring the changes under Paul Miller’s reign with their Orange Tree Extras, a series of varied one night theatre, comedy, music and spoken word events. This week has already seen Barb Jungr sing Nina Simone and Tim Crouch reprise his I, Malvolio but it was the promise of cabaret from original Avenue Q cast members Simon Lipkin, Jon Robyns and Giles Terera that tempted me out to Richmond.
Avenue Q is a show that I loved with all of my heart when it arrived in the West End, making seven trips across the four years of its various cast and theatre changes. And though I have enjoyed the touring versions that have emerged since, there’s nothing quite like the original and so the news that Lipkin and Robyns would be bringing along Princeton, Nicky, Rod and Trekie Monster along with them was music to my ears, YAYYY as the Bad Idea Bears might have said!

And what a fun evening it was. The affection that these guys have for each other, and for musical theatre, was evident from the off in a couple of parody numbers poking fun at the industry in which they’ve all managed to establish enduring careers – with lows as well as highs, I Can’t Sing anyone? And the second half saw their playful sides kick in with a witty ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ sung one word at a time by the three of them and a raucous ‘Jailhouse Rock’ seeing them switch between piano, tambourine and lead vocal every time an audience member honked a horn.

Solo sections for each offered up real delights. Terera – my Best Actor in a Musical from last year and currently doing great things to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – more than proved his worth with a gorgeously jazzy ‘Pure Imagination’ and a hugely affecting, low-key ‘Tomorrow’ from Bugsy Malone. Robyns looked back to Memphis with a rousing The Music of my Soul from the piano and Lipkin thoroughly indulged his comic chops, though stood out most with the quiet emotion of William Finn’s aching ‘I’d Rather Be Sailing’ and a lovely rendition of ‘The Rainbow Connection’ along with Terera, their harmonies sending lovely shivers down the spine.

An unexpected high point of the show was Terera’s impersonation of Dame Judi Dench’s ‘Send in the Clowns’, right down to the shoulder (and not just because the song contains a shout-out to the name of this blog, or should that be the other way round…!) which was fortunately good enough to avoid being a treasonable offence. But as we were blessed with a trio of songs from the show that made at least two of their names, it was thoroughly fantastic to be reminded just how much I loved Avenue Q and how much I loved these guys doing the show.

From ‘If You Were Gay’ (I’M NOT BEING DEFENSIVE!) to the harmonies of ‘I Wish I Could Go Back To College’ to the hard-earned wisdom of ‘For Now’, it was all I hoped it would be and more or less the perfect end to a cracking evening of cabaret, with sterling support from Musical Director Alex Williams on the piano. You kinda hope that this is the first of many times that the hugely musically talented Lipkin, Robyns and Terera do this sort of thing as their stars, both collective and individual, deserve to continue to rise and rise.

Not in the Show (after ‘Into the Woods’)
10 Years Back (after ‘One Day More’)


Acoustic Medley including One Heart, One Love and Don’t Worry Be Happy
Pure Imagination / Candy Man
Tomorrow (from Bugsy Malone) / Mr Bojangles


Purpose (from Avenue Q) as Princeton
The Music of my Soul (from Memphis)
Shiksa Goddess (from The Last 5 Years)


An ‘ode’ to his girlfriend
I’d Rather Be Sailing
4 chord medley
The Rainbow Connection (GT and SL as Nicky)
Hasa Diga Ebowai (from The Book of Mormon) GT, SL as Nicky and JR as Rod
Jailhouse Rock
Mel Brooks medley
Send in the Clowns GT as Dame Judi
All Of Me / Stay With Me mashup GT and JR
Me and My Shadow GT and SL
Fly Me To The Moon
If You Were Gay / I Wish I Could Go Back To College / For Now (from Avenue Q)
Grow Old With You

Review: Laughing Matters with Celia Imrie, St James Studio

“They’re out of sorts in Sunderland
And terribly cross in Kent”
There’s something a little curious about Celia Imrie’s Laughing Matters, a cabaret show in all but nature, which means it never quite satisfies in the way one yearns for it to do so. In the intimate surroundings of the Crazy Coqs, she rattles through a selection of comic songs and extracts from her 2011 autobiography The Happy Hoofer but with so little audience interaction until the very end, this revue feels a little sterile rather than offering the personal insight that more seasoned cabaret performers bring to the table.
That’s not to say it wasn’t an enjoyable experience, I really rather liked it, but rather it needs to be taken more as a kind of vanity project and Lord knows, she has paid her dues. Her personal anecdotes are chucklesome if not particularly revelatory and her choice of songs wisely errs on the patter side of things – she’d be the first to say she’s hardly the strongest singer although she did win an Olivier for Best Supporting Role in A Musical for Acorn Antiques, which simply demonstrates her considerable comic capabilities.

And that’s what comes across her, a mischievous smile and a twinkle in the eye through Alan Melville’s numbers like Which Witch and Common Talk and standards like Noël Coward’s There Are Bad Times Around The Corner, Hermione Gingold’s Madame La Palma, the Lady Snake Charmer right through to the finale All Over The Place with its paper hats for all. Costume changes and muscular male dancer add to the cheekiness quotient (as well as the overly structured format) so one can’t really complain too much, especially in seeing such a national treasure-in-waiting close up.
Running time: 90 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 17th August