The concept of this cabaret production at the Landor Theatre is a great idea. A guilty treat for those who know about musical theatre and a nice introduction to those who are less familiar, but may have heard a few tunes. The notion of making up a cabaret filled with songs that people know so well invites quite a giggly crowd to join the audience, to be surprised yet unsurprised at the running order of the night. All the musical offenders are offered, ‘On my own’, ‘Defying Gravity’, ‘Adelaide’s Lament’, ‘Stars’, ‘Come to your senses’, and. of course, ‘Popular’. It is the first time I have ever been to a cabaret of any nature where the first two bars of a piece have seen the audience audibly groan as they identify what song it is.
The core team of four work through a repertoire of the “best loved” with Chris Macklin at the piano, dutifully playing through page after page of songbook. Michael Baxter has strong vocals and impressive range as he opts for the higher register in ‘Purpose’, and Poppy Carter has quite a belt for someone so petite – I just hope she can sustain it for the rest of the run. Adam Bayjou, who wears the signature hair style and groomed beard of Alfie Boe, takes us through several similar songs with strength but without much variation. It is Ashleigh Jones who gives the performance something more, rather than just singing her way through the songs, she captivates the audience and takes us with us. We all know the words to ‘On my own’, but Jones’ performance includes the audience.
A treat in this cabaret is the addition of a special guest who joins the line up in the second act for four songs. We were lucky enough to have Helena Blackman (runner up on BBC’s How to solve a problem like Maria) who worked through a selection of songs including ‘Wishing you were somehow here again’ from Phantom of the Opera. Showing complete control of her voice with a range of dynamics, the song was beautifully presented. Topped off with a cheeky rendition of ‘I enjoy being a girl’, the cameo by Blackman was really something special.
As mentioned, the concept was great, it perhaps just needed the people on stage to interact with the audience more. However, credit to the young producers of 3 Card Productions for taking advantage of a last minute booking, it is clear that they had their work cut out getting it together.
For those of you who want a guilty trip into the box of musical theatre, there are bound to be a fair few numbers in this show to keep you occupied.