Showcase Productions Showcase. Session one
Producers Barrie& Vicci Lucas, Colin Jones.
Reviewer Mark Ritchie
Here we were again, at what has now become a real flagship event for the UK light entertainment and cabaret fraternity. Barrie Lucas has succeeded in moving into the territory, in my view, so foolishly vacated by The Stage and again in my view, never adequately filled by others who tried to keep a Showcall type presence alive.
In this, the first of six sessions, Compere Lee Lard opened things up with a bit of gentle ribbing for yours truly. Soon after, a huge eight-piece band, complete with impressive brass section entered. Known collectively as The Emeralds and fronted by well-known singer Caitlen Bailey, The Emeralds made a compelling case for future success in the function band scene, where they will surely do their best work.
Singer Lee Roberts is, in my view, a stand-out performer who is armed with the kind of silky singing skills that will surely find favour with many. With the look of a band singer who has turned solo, Mr Roberts voice was sold all the more effectively by an assured line in crowd approach.
Rewynd are a husband and wife vocal duo. Although the act may be harmonious in life, I’m afraid that, in my view, the harmony does not extend to their vocal ability.
Smart, fresh-faced singing Scouser Cliff Jenkinson is a bonny lad, who has clearly managed to gain experience beyond his years. For Mr Jenkinson, entertaining a room full of agents and bookers is pretty effortless. However, sharper and more distinctive stage wear would, in my view, have helped his pitch immeasurably.
Time for comedy in the shape of Rory Cunningham. Formerly a holiday centre presenter, young Mr Cunningham showed that he sings in tune, before delivering some winsome Scottish patter. Based on what we saw, as a’ stand-up’, Rory Cunningham is still in presenter mode, as opposed to a fully rounded comedy performer.
Singer Carla Palmer looks a bit of a west-end Wendy. I am not using this term not scornfully, as her musical theatre background was reflected in the songs, which she sang so sweetly. I was therefore all the more surprised to hear during her on stage interview that she works mainly in pubs, clubs and bars and claims to be 12 years old. Very Strange!
Another solo singer followed, by the name of Aaron Welby. Despite the funereal stage garb, Mr Welby reveals a remarkably well pitched singing voice, which is as easy on the ear as it is distinctive. In a session filled with great voices, Aaron Welby proved extremely memorable.
Ventriloquist Paul Dumas introduced us to two of his many on-stage friends, including a monkey with a speech impediment and an oriental Elvis. A fully rounded cabaret performer, the talented Mr Dumas offers original material, bags of experience and a singing voice which is well worth listening to. In short, another stand out act!
Sparkly-dressed singer Amy Goater proved yet again that ladies boasting a certain proportion of dress size in show business have to possess ’a personality’. A more than acceptable vocalist, Miss Goater also arrived armed with loads of self-effacing patter.
Dapper singer and entertainer Ben Bellushi opened with a Frankie Valli track and this pocket dynamo looks like a natural performer. Diminutive in stature, but big in terms of vocal talent and charisma, I just loved Ben Bellushi!
Singer and musician GP Thompson has the look of a band musician, who is taking a well-aimed stab at solo work. The pitch was polished and highly professional. His opening song, a version of the Johnny Cash classic, Folsom Prison Blues was brilliantly performed.
Singer Lois Charlton made a very good impression vocally, with a modern style of growly vocal delivery. Ms Charlton is tiny, but what she lacks in inches, is made up for vocally. A pair of stage tights would certainly have helped in the stage wear department.
Bonny young singer Danny Dearden gave us a smattering of current chart material, in a set presented with verve and energy. A Justin Timberlake song ended a hugely enjoyable set, from yet another expansive and promising young performer.
For those who remember Snowdrop Creations and the late, great Tufty Gordon, I thought we were in for a similar experience as Natty walked out on stage. Billed as a Bob Marley tribute, what we actually experienced was a loudly dressed man, complete with amazing shades and dressed in all the colours of rainbow. All fade-out tracks and OTT personality, it was predictable that fun and hi-jinks followed during the Lee Lard interview with Natty, which followed.
Dave Pye is a top-drawer singer, who appeared in a session that was stacked with similar acts. Smart and soulful, Mr Pye is renowned and immensely experienced as a function and cabaret singer and it was good to see such an immaculately turned-out artiste, with a voice that lived up to the hype.
Closing out a massively enjoyable session was one of the most noted and admired female solo acts on the entire UK scene. Jo Ashcroft has done the lot and, as a female multi-instrumentalist who also sings superbly, Ms Ashcroft’s phone must be ringing off the hook with work offers. In short, here we have a true artiste, who provided a fitting conclusion to a mega-strong showcase session.
Experts Choice; In this section of the review, we ask two prominent showcase attendees to lend us their view on which were the two most marketable acts on each session.
Tim Savage, artiste booker for Parkdean Holidays chose Jo Ashcroft & Ben Bellushi
Julie Johnson of UK Cabaret sales chose The Emeralds & Jo Ashcroft