Mainstream Entertainments Showcase 2015
Hen Lane club Coventry
Producers Barry Herbert, Gary Smith& Glen Brazil
Reviewer Mark Ritchie
A comfortable and well-appointed Coventry social club provided the setting for this well-staged event. Compere Lee Lard was soon on stage with the quips and the comedy, in the form of an early evening welcome. The newly bearded Lard will presumably lose the facial hair when he resumes his main job as a successful tribute to comedian Peter Kay.
Rock chic style singer Stacy Green would look fronting a band, but this blonde quipped powerhouse vocalist made a compelling case for pub gigs and themed rock nights. Bare mid-riff and bovver boots was the order of the day and I wasn’t sure if Ms Green was going to sing to me or kick my head in!
Stand-out singer Tyler Jon looks very natural and prepared on-stage. His backing tracks were of the highest calibre and the Dirty Dancing fans were catered for here. This young man has an easy on the ear voice and a boy next door image.
Young image singer Kelly Brazil was next on stage and chose two contrasting songs, presumably to hint at versatility. Eye-catching and photogenic, Ms Brazil looked and sounded like a holiday centre trained performer. Such entertainers have no off-switch, but the best of them seem to avoid adopting the false mark of jollity imposed upon them in holiday centre settings. Kelly Brazil is certainly one of the stand-out solo female singers I have seen lately.
Singer Keith Dee looks like a ‘Steady-Eddie’ style singer who probably knows his business inside out. However, it remains a mystery to me why so many of today’s male cabaret singers chose funeral black suits, which often look so drab and dreary.
The solo singers kept on coming and next was the extremely glamorous and beautifully dressed Faye Horne. A colla-voce version of the Whitney Houston hit How will I Know, with only piano accompaniment, was well delivered. However, if you are as good as Ms Horne, you might as well be perfect and her lazy club-style diction marred an otherwise glowing picture.
I first saw new comedy duo AJ & Sykes on their debut performance at John Howe showcase in Bognor Regis. These guys are busy working acts, involved in other projects and this really is a work in progress right now. Sad to say that a lack of initial impact and penetrative comedy content makes this acts prospects look pretty bleak right now.
Boy girl act Rock of Ages came next and, after a rather overblown introduction, we were greeted by a rock chic style singer and her equally revved-up, guitar wielding partner. The image reflected exactly what was being presented and, in the right kind of venue, this pair are certain to encourage the air guitarists in the audience to shake their pants.
Celebrated comedienne Christine Coles was a real trail-blazer when she garnered her reputation as one of the bluest women entertainers in the UK not so long ago. Now it seems that the glamorous Ms Coles has presented an alternative to her caustic comedy alter-ego and now presents a naughty but nice comedy show, also revealing a chanteuse style singing voice. When comedy acts perform more than one routine sometimes their preferred mode of working peeps out from underneath the comedy mask. Christine Coles is totally believable, natural and funny whatever the hue of her material.
Take a quintet of bonny Midlands lads armed with some quality backing tracks and apparently the result is a tribute to One Direction. The One Directioners will no doubt receive a warm welcome in cert types of live venues. One thing that struck me about this act was the curious fact that, in my view, they looked smarter off stage than on.
More tributes followed with return appearances for singers Kelly Brazil as Jessie J, Tyler Jon as Gary Barlow and Stacy Green as Pink. All three proved more than acceptable solo tributes, with more than one string to their career bows. Perhaps Stacy Green was the pick of them with her Ms Pink show, which was both in character and superbly delivered.
Also re-appearing in a bewildering genre tribute was the impressive Faye Horne. Motown Heaven is the name of the set Ms Horne delivers whilst donning a sequinned gown and an implausible black wig. It is awkward to ascertain whether or not this qualifies as a vocal impression, as the vocal delivery, intonation and vocal timbre seems to sound exactly the same as on her earlier appearance. Two bites at the showcase cherry? Possibly.
Next game The Glamophones, a three girl retro-vocal act, who opened in Andrews Sisters style by telling us all about The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B. Acts such as this one are highly marketable just now and business for these girls should be pretty much assured.
Could it be Magic is the name of a tribute to Take That. The presence of such a high volume of such acts right now suggests that a market exists for this particular tribute subject right now. In my view, the glaring deficiency here was definitely in the stage wear department. There are a number of more slickly turned out Take that tributes out there right now
Yet another singer augmenting his solo act with a tribute is Keith Dee, who made his second entrance of the evening in the guise of Phil Collins. The fact that Dee looks like the Ex-Genesis front man hadn’t struck me on first viewing, however Dee comes close to the real thing and this is certainly a highly marketable solo tribute, given there simply aren’t many such tributes around. Jesus He Knows Me was superbly sung and performed and in my view Dee was the pick of all the tributes on view.
Making her fourth appearance of the evening, in various guises, was singer Stacy Green this time appearing as Cher. If so many cracks of the showcase whip were thought by some to be unfair, they must have been silenced by this Ms Green’s most successful appearance of the evening, complete with wig and hooker boots. This show is known and marketed as ‘Cherished’. If there is a better Cher tribute out there right now, I haven’t yet seen her.
Making her third appearance of the evening was singer Kelly Brazil, prompting compere Lee Lard to quip at agent Barry Herbert by asking him exactly how many acts he actually represented ? To be fair the talented Ms Brazil made a good sound-alike job of her tribute to Katy Perry. It may however prompt some bookers to question how much time is actually put into the preparation of each separate tributes when performed by the same artistes.
Conversely and making his first and only appearance of the evening was singer Paul Tayler, who also performs a cabaret act under the name of Saul. Here Tayler was performing his tribute to Michael Jackson. From the authentic recorded voice-over, narrations to the moonwalk and dance talent it is all there. However most astonishingly accurate is the quality of the live, and I do mean truly live, vocal performance. Paul Tayler doesn’t merely sing the songs, he performs them!
I am reliably informed that singer Treyc Cohen enjoyed a brief TV talent show odyssey by reaching the final of one of the money-making Cowell TV talent vehicles. Her solo show is Motown based and the golden stage gown reflected the quality of the live vocal from this impressive solo actress and singer. The only cloud on the horizon was the karaoke style fade-out backing tracks, for which in my view there is simply no place for in 21st century cabaret.
The Core band are a punchy little trio who delivered a segued showcase set in cracking style. Clicktrack was used here and the vocal quality from the bass playing front man was quite impressive to say the very least. This pocket Orchestra style band proved to be one of the evenings many highlights and I’m sure there must be tonnes of business for The Core band on this impressive showing.
Closing out a packed evening, which ran like clockwork from the organisers point of view, was The Jersey 4. As was the case with the Take That tribute earlier, there must be a huge demand for this type of act out there. However I have seen this tribute performed by the current market leaders on board a cruise ship recently and on one occasion by four young men who, in my view, only boasting one member with any discernable vocal talent. This particular act fell somewhere between these two extremes. Despite an ambiguity created by the presence of some audible pre-recorded voices on the backing tracks, I would imagine there must be business a-plenty for The Jersey 4.
This was a delightful evening out in Coventry in the splendid company of theatre promoter and personal manager Jayne Conner, who I was haranguing into taking out a subscription to UK Cabaret. Welld one to Barry Herbert and his extremely efficient and friendly team and as for the glamorous Ms Conner and her proposed subscription…I’ll let you know.