Curtains Up Showcase 2016

curtains-up-2016Curtains Up Showcase 2016

Genting Casino, Southend on Sea

September 26,27&28

Producer Simon Gibson for Actz Entertainments

Reviewer Mark Ritchie

Session one

This was the first major event covered by the then fledgling UK Cabaret magazine, when it was held two years ago at the famous Purfleet Circus Tavern.

The Genting Casino is a great venue and at the opening session, on the Monday evening, Compere David Webster was soon out, complete with bright red suit and bags of bonhomie. Lots of other super stage suits followed over the four sessions and Mr Webster wears them well.

First act out was swing style crooner Gary Driscoll. I couldn’t decide whether or not this tuxedo clad singer was attempting vocal impressions, or merely covering the music. Certainly his phrasing of the Matt Munro classic Walk Away, was very similar to the real thing, and I can pay no greater compliment to Mr Driscoll than that.

Belladore came next and, in my view, this was as marketable an all-girl act as there is out there right now, especially for the cruise ship cabaret business. Take three rock chicks, add some top-drawer, completely live harmonies and sprinkle in some show business stardust and there you have Belladore.

Featured recently on The Voice was singer Jenny Jones and I have no doubt that this remarkable        ‘ Jones the Voice’, deserves to be heard on telly.  Even though she jumped in at the eleventh hour and without suitable stage wear, Jenny Jones smashed it, in a spot, which had been vacated by an act who had called in sick.

Smiling singer Daryl Quick looks like a natural holiday centre style entertainer, with a well-pitched singing voice. Sadly, Mr Quick appeared to have been pretty slow wielding an iron, which his stage suit would have benefitted from immeasurably.

I last saw stand-up comedian Tony Marrese at a trade show in London and on that night I thought he stunk up the stage. A second look revealed a highly accomplished gag-man, with some material to die for. Totally original and sharp as a tack, Tony Marrese is funny, engaging and utterly different in style and substance, as he connects old-style mainstream with more modern styles of stand-up. On this occasion, I just loved him!

The gorgeous Samantha Lomax has talent oozing from over pore, from her up-tilted nose to the tiny toes within her splendid silver slippers. Miss Lomax performs many different acts. On this occasion she gave us a segment of her Paloma Faith tribute show, Perfectly Paloma, which was predictably practically perfect.

Joey Costa’s Caribbean Jamboree really sounds like something!  What we witnessed was a large man, bedecked in what I can only assume was a dreadlock wig. Clad in a garish summer shirt and denim shorts, Mr Costa sang a succession of reggae hits, in segue style. The vacant stares and generally drooping jaws in the audience said it all. Time to move on!

iTrend are a four boy homage to boy bands down the years, from the Four Seasons to JLS. Lots of energy here, generated by a bonny quartet, possessing genuine vocal and dance ability. Admittedly some of the backing tracks were rather over-loaded, but it is the harmony ability which makes iTrend into a stand-out attraction.

The pick of the entire session, in my view at least, was Troubadour. An a capella rendition of the Seal composition, Kiss from a Rose, was quite superbly performed by this four-handed, ultra-slick vocal group. The theatre-trained look, the sheer poise and ability of Troubadour, will make them a winner at sea on the cruise ship cabaret scene, as well as on land.

I have to admit to being unfamiliar with chart star Sia and the tribute-show, This is Acting came next. I have heard the tunes before and this singer, with the implausibly long fringe, certainly has a fair set of pipes on her. As ever in tribute-land, success with depend on demand.

Close-up magic meets cabaret next, with magic and patter merchant Danny Lee Grew. This young man has fast and dextrous hands and some lovely moments of clever deflection. A performance here, possibly with universal appeal for this brand new solo comedy attraction.

Youthful singer Sam Southall has the look of a holiday park coat-type entertainer, who has launched a solo cabaret act. A bonny lad with a winsome style, Mr Southall has tonnes of sex appeal for holiday centre crowds and there should be plenty of work for someone who can patter to this high standard.

Closing a rather splendid opening session was The Chase Martinez Show. Singer Chase Martinez and his two female dancers are as well-drilled as they are great to look at. Perhaps, across the board, international appeal, allied with pure vocal and dance ability, will be more than enough to launch this young man and take him where he possibly deserves to go.

In our Experts choice section, we ask two top agent/bookers to select their most bookable acts from each session.

Rachel Hainsworth from Flair Entertainments chose Troubadour and Samantha Lomax as Perfectly Paloma.

Maria Johnson from GRT entertainments chose Troubadour and Danny Lee Grew

Session two

As bookers reconvened for this afternoon session, it was polished, presenter style Compere David Webster, or ‘radio’s David Webster’, as he describes himself, who got the showcase ball rolling.

There are so many Take That tributes out there and the demand is often dependant on budget. I’m sure there are much cheaper Take That’s around, but surely at the very pinnacle of the business are Take This. These four London based, theatre trained performers set the bar, in my view, at which many other ‘Take That’s’, will need to aspire.

The Mo-Sound Sisters are led by a personality vocalist, along with two bewigged and tastefully tassled female singer/dancers. The attempts to provoke a response from an afternoon showcase audience were both brave and even laudable. Just as equally the Q and A patter from the stage was unnecessary, considering the high level of vocal ability and a glittering performance here from a terrific act.

Singer Laura May is petite, to say the very least! Billed as ‘The Little Lady-With the Big Voice’, Miss May certainly has a fine set of pipes. The ‘shouty’ delivery in between the songs suggests a social club performer and there will be work out there aplenty for this well-pitched singer.

Magician Jamie Docherty has the poise and confidence to present what is in reality a rather quirky and wordy comedy magic show. There was a levitation illusion, which went a little awry, but climbing inside a giant, six-foot balloon however, provided a superb conclusion and work should be abundant.

The Glitter Sisters certainly live up to their name. Also available as a tribute to the Three Degrees, this brilliantly dressed trio will no doubt find their place in the market.

The West End Jerseys must be right at the top of the fee scale for Frankie Valli & The Four Season tributes. As was the case with the Take That tribute earlier, these guys are totally live, which alas, in my view, cannot be proved conclusively by all of their competitors. The West End Jerseys are undoubtedly a tip-top tribute attraction. Having said all of that, why on earth did the boys not consider ironing their stage suits? Baffling!

I just loved Mystic Mick. ‘After all how many camp psychics do you come across’? This pink-suit clad bundle of fun combines comedy and magic with the sheer force of his personality. Admittedly this style of entertainment has its limitations, given the PC world we live in, but in front of the right audience, my crystal ball tells me that Mystic Mick will score heavily.

Soulful singer Errol Reid was formerly a member of chart band China Black. Mr Reid’s superb voice sounds trained, prepared, durable and extremely sweet. Fronting a band would surely reveal the true range of this show man singer. After all, if an artiste of this quality is going to work with backing tracks, they really should not be of the ‘fade-out’ variety.

The Basetones are a three boy vocal harmony act, who combine a humorous approach with top quality vocal ability. A must for any party or function, it is hardly surprising to find this act so much in demand. In short, The Basetones are probably as good as acts like this can hope to become.

Che Chesterman Snr is the proud owner of an extremely sweet and soulful voice. Despite the nifty titfer, perched on his head, I daresay many potential bookers would have preferred to see a sharper sartorial look.

El Baldiniho is a crossover/mainstream/ comedy club style entertainer with a difference. Here we have a fusion of fresh and original throwaway patter and spoof magic. With a family friendly show and an adults-only show both on offer, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see El Baldinho scoring heavily and making many new friends, after this hilarious showcase outing.

The Saturday Night Divas have the look of a new act. The girls need to work on their links. I would guess that here we have professional dancers/ actresses who are taking a stab at cabaret. With a little polish, I’m sure all will be well.

I was really looking forward to seeing The Ascots. In my view, one of the all-time great British clowns, formerly known as Melton Mowbray and his long-suffering and equally funny female assistant, have long been a firm favourite of mine. The Ascots show is just as hilarious as ever.

Experts Choice

Jack Applebaum of Peel Talent chose Take This& Che Chesterman Snr

Ian Burley from Burntmill club in Harrow chose West End Jerseys & Che Chesterman Snr

Session three

The Tuesday evening showcase atmosphere was excellent and well attended, as Compere David Webster entered again, wearing yet another of his bewildering array of super stage suits.

Pure Imagination are a company of musical theatre performers, numbering seven in total. Their thoughtfully costumed and choreographed production is available in excerpt or bespoke longer form, as a stand- alone, show in a box style attraction. This show launches officially next month and there must be business in abundance for this show for all the family.

Dayton is the name of a soulful singer, whose style is so laid-back, he is practically horizontal. His sweet voice says it all and there is little for his audience to do then sit-back and bathe in the warmth of his dulcet tones.

In short, the members of The Livertones had hit upon a great idea. This is a three boy vocal act who just seem to gel. Whether it is whilst putting a bit of do-wop into The Beatles or reproducing the moves and falsetto of Justin Timberlake, this is a top-drawer attraction, by anyone’s reckoning.

The ‘Reverend’ Gary Toon delivered his sermon on the theme of reggae next. This Ray-ban reverend arrived, complete with sun-glasses and looking a lot like Suggs himself. Only at a national trade event could you hope to see a reggae loving parson!

The three opening members of Take That Experience entered, intoning their good evenings in fluent Manc. Later a Robbie lookalike came out, drawing visible intakes of breath from many audience members, due to his amazing facial resemblance to ‘The Robster’. To finish, we were back to the five-handed original line-up, as a Jason Orange lookalike joined them. The act is a multi-faceted tribute attraction, which justifiably enjoys a huge demand from the tribute-market.

A Tommy Cooper impersonator by the name of Neil J Duncan came next.  Re-creating many of Cooper’s antics and keeping the genius of Cooper alive, this act will mean very little to the younger generation. There will be more than enough niche work out there however to keep Mr Duncan gainfully employed.

The big hit of the night, in my view at least, were The Stereoettes. This superbly presented four girl act do the business on stage and will tick many boxes for higher-end bookers. The looks match the harmonies and there was even an a-capella version of Megan Traynor’s song about the female posterior, All About the Bass.

I have seen Gary Goodmaze as Freddie Mercury before and I was frankly less than impressed. Now sounding much more vocally assured and accompanied by a Brian May tribute guitarist, Mr Goodmaze and his guitar-wielding sidekick are known collectively as, Under Pressure. This superb tribute attraction should work and work on this impressive showing.

If the definition of looking and sounding like your chosen tribute subject is the benchmark for success, then I have to say that Busy Being Olly didn’t really do it for me. A strong vocalist certainly, but, in my view, attention to presentational quality should be the top priority for this young man, if he is to continue to be busy being Olly.

There must be a strong market now for the Little Mix Experience. These four girls match, in terms of dance and vocal ability. The sex appeal aspect is strongly focussed on, during a well drilled dance routine. As ever with this type of act, there is a real ambiguity in terms of the live vocal and what is actually on the tracks, but the diary will presumably be a busy one.

The hour was getting late and the drink was flowing amongst some of the noisier attendees. All of which was a shame for those of us keen to hear Post Modern Mix. This two boy/ two girl harmony act are thoughtfully presented and have the look of theatre-trained, production show professionals.

Similarly, singer James Leonard was well worth listening to. Despite the annoying, fade-out backing track he opened with, Mr Leonard did enough to redeem himself, with an otherwise classy, well presented and assured performance.

Closing the whole evening out was n 8-piece live band by the name of The Reflections. Two singers out front and six experienced looking musicians did a great job keeping the music live, just like it used to be!

Experts Choice: Julie Butcher Artiste Manager from Parkdean Holidays chose Post Modern Mix & Neil J Duncan- legends of Comedy.

Tim Savage Act booker from Parkdean Holidays chose The Livertones & The Stereoettes

Session four

The final session on the Wednesday afternoon still had many key bookers in the audience and Compere David Webster even threw in a well-turned song to get the ball rolling.

First up was Welsh songstress Rhian Hughes, who entered resplendent in a bright red glittering gown. I would imagine Miss Hughes does her best work in front of social club audiences, where her style will score most heavily.

Three girl act The Dream certainly looked dreamy, as they debuted this brand new act at Curtains Up. This is soulful and skilful choreography, with lots of potential, I would imagine, for an act as marketable is this. The backing tracks were a wee bit busy, in my view, but there is plenty of time for this act to develop.

Jamie Bartlett is a tall and handsome young man. He is also the proud owner of well-pitched singing voice. Falling into the trap that many young singers seem to stumble into, Mr Bartlett appeared to be attempting a vocal impression of the acts whose music he was covering. Almost invariably, unless they are taking a stab at tribute work, in my view, young singers only truly blossom when they learn to find their own voice.

Tall singer Elizabeth Kelly has worked on holiday park entertainment teams in the West Country since she left school. During her interview with Compere David Webster, Miss Kelly seemed at pains at reveal that now, not being in her 20’s anymore, she wants to perform as visiting cabaret. I would suggest that this lady asks a great deal of what seems, in my view, to be an extremely limited vocal range. A closer look at repertoire may be a good option, as opposed to attempting the big Diva anthems.

Next came a three girl act, performing disco hits from the 70’s, who are known collectively as Char’s Angels. A 70’s medley that faded out karaoke style at the end and some very limited vocal harmony ability, plus lots of visible tattoo’s, meant that this particular act didn’t really work for me.

Singer Terry Bolton looked like the proverbial rabbit, caught in the headlights, as he strode nervously on stage. We were informed that Mr Bolton is a song-writer, who also performs covers in cabaret. Looking smart and up for the task, it was a pleasure listening to a singer of this quality.

Singer Tinisha, who had appeared earlier as part of the three girl act The Dream, came out to strut her stuff as a solo singer. And a very fine job she did too!

The penultimate act of the whole event was Jukebox duo. A two girl act in lovely matching dresses, I genuinely wish these young ladies all the very best in show business. For a variety of reasons, I don’t think this act will work. However, for a variety of entirely different reasons, I hope these ladies prove me wrong.

The task of bringing the entire event to a close for another year, fell to three-handed wedding and function band Eclipse. The backing tracks aspect of the band will attract those who would like a bigger budget band, but cannot afford one. As a function band, I would have expected sharper stage wear, but Eclipse make a pleasant sound and their female singer is both tuneful and well-pitched.

With both Curtains Up and Showcase Productions inviting UK Cabaret to cover all their events, we are pleased to be able to provide review coverage for every national showcase that really matters these days. As sole reviewer of this event, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the lovely people at Actz Entertainments for their hospitality and continued support with our growing publication.

Experts Choice

Jamie Hughes- Artiste booker at Park Resorts chose The Dream

Kendra Larter from Flair Entertainments chose the Dream& Rhian Hughes















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