Review: Songs and Solidarity, Trafalgar Studios

“We could see this was a bad one immediately. The sky was glowing.”
 
Touted as an evening of song, dance and poetry, Songs and Solidarity was a remarkable event indeed. A fundraising gala evening pulled together in the space of a week by the superhuman efforts of actor Giles Terera and producer Danielle Tarento, it was a concert for the hundreds of families made homeless and the relatives of those who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire. Hosted by Claire Sweeney, musically directed by the enormously talented Tim Sutton, 
 
The balance of the programme was just right too. From pure musical loveliness like the gentle harmonies of Tyrone Huntley and Jon Robyns on Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colors’ and the simplicity of Rachel Tucker’s acapella take on ‘She Moved Through The Fair’, to the more intense emotion of Terera’s own ‘Ol’ Man River’ and a visibly moved Clare Foster’s ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ (a song with which I wasn’t familiar but rather destroyed me). From the much-needed comic relief of Stiles & Drewe skipping through ‘A Little Bit of Nothing On A Big White Plate’ to the soul-warming ‘Indiscriminate Acts Of Kindness’ performed by the ever excellent Julie Atherton.

Continue reading “Review: Songs and Solidarity, Trafalgar Studios”

Review: A Song Cycle for Soho, Soho Theatre

“If you’re feeling low low, get down to Madame JoJo’s”

Featuring the vocal talents of Michael Cantwell, James Gillan, Niamh Perry and Claire Moore, and showcasing the work of musical theatre writers both established but primarily up and coming, A Song Cycle for Soho marks yet another feather in the cap for Mercury Musical Development, Simon Greiff and their sterling support for the genre. MMD has long been an invaluable resource for British musical theatre writers and Simon Greiff through SimG Productions has been tireless in his promotion of younger names and so there is something very apt about their collaboration here.

A Song Cycle for Soho developed out of Andrew Brinded’s original book which cast a bit of a sideways glance at Soho, an area of central London that is teeming with debauchery,history, character and a whole lot more besides. 16 set of songwriters were then invited to compose works that captured the multitudinous quirkiness of life in Soho and the result is a collection of songs that cover history, both recent and long ago, and the modern day; comedy, quiet tragedy and the whole gamut of crazy emotions inbetween. Continue reading “Review: A Song Cycle for Soho, Soho Theatre”

Music Review: John Barr – All I Am

“Maybe I’m brainless, maybe I’m wise”

Having reviewed In Whatever Time We Have last month, I was given a copy of All I Am, one of John Barr’s later albums, his 5th in total, to have a listen to in my quest to broaden the musical theatre CD collection on my iTunes. Barr is a musical theatre and cabaret veteran now so consequently there’s a hugely diverse range of material on show here: musical theatre and cabaret standards rub shoulders with pop songs, soulful ballads, even a self-penned number. Each song also has its own dedication, testifying to just how personal this song collection is. And it is a largely restrained affair, lots of lovely piano arrangements and Barr’s rich voice showcased at its best, the simplicity of songs old and new suiting him down to the ground whether it’s Robin McKelle’s ‘Remember’, ‘Absent Minded Me’, a song cut from ‘Funny Girl’ or the guitar-led ‘Earthbound’ written by Conner Reeves.

Highlights for me were two of the four duets on here: Scott Alan’s ‘The Journey’ is sung softly and just beautifully with Alison Jiear who also provides backing vocals on several other songs too, there’s a gorgeous subtlety here that re-emerges though in a completely different way on a re-arranged ‘As Time Go By’ with David McAlmont that swings by with a fresh energy. But Barr is such a strong balladeer too that he soars on numbers like the title track and ‘Heaven Holds The Ones I Love’ that could prove mawkish but are sung here with such heartfelt sincerity. Continue reading “Music Review: John Barr – All I Am”

Review: Live at Wilton’s Gala Launch, Wilton’s Music Hall

“Fate beckoned her…into a rather queer, unfamiliar atmosphere”

Entering the atmospheric entrance space of Wilton’s Music Hall for the gala launch of their Live at Wilton’s cabaret shows, my heart sank upon seeing the sign that said “due to unforeseen circumstance Hannah Waddingham is unable to perform tonight”. I’d booked mainly to see her again and having seen her at the Open Air Theatre on Tuesday watching The Comedy of Errors, I was rather disappointed but when the rest of the line-up includes Gwyneth Herbert, David McAlmont and Siân Phillips and you can call on Marc Almond for back up, you know you’re in for a good night anyway.

Live at Wilton’s is an attempt to secure the future of cabaret in London, somewhat timely with Pizza on the Park closing and Wilton’s Music Hall is laying claim to actually being the birthplace of cabaret in 1858, some 23 years before Le Chat Noir. It was an eclectic bill for sure, mixing the traditional with the ultra-modern, musical theatre with jazz, proper old-school music hall singalongs with the downright quirky. But it’s a programme that fits with Wilton’s Music Hall’s vision for its future, bringing together a vast array of talent to perform within its history-filled walls and covering all sorts of musical bases with a strong vein of storytelling running through them. And this evening displayed how it can suit so many styles of music perfectly; McAlmont’s vocal improvisations and Herbert’s ukulele-driven final number both making the most of the venue’s acoustics without microphones and being all-the-more effective for it. Continue reading “Review: Live at Wilton’s Gala Launch, Wilton’s Music Hall”