The Olympus Room, Imperial College LondonJune 10th 2015
Producer Jack Applebaum
Reviewer Mark Ritchie
The time: 1pm on an unseasonably cool June afternoon, the place: Imperial College North London. This was a showcase staged in the presence of many prominent American cruise cabaret bookers. All the attendees were looking for globe-trotting UK based acts to place in their floating theatres and bars and there was much to interest the talent-spotters.
Opening the entire day’s cabaret was five piece all girl live band Joan Ov Ark and, given the nature of the band market, these rock-chic’s are sure to fund favour. Genre tributes and those of offer something that little bit different are always going to be in demand and Joan Ov Arc made a compelling case for quality work being pushed their way.
Comedian and Presenter Phil Reid was tasked with linking the first two showcase sessions as compere. The art of presenting an event such as this as a comedian is being funny in short bursts and young Mr Reid is indeed a chirpy and engaging character who shows enormous promise. However the ‘fills’ between the acts seemed a tad rushed at times.
The sweet soulful voice of smart balladeer Stephen Bayliss is easy on the ear. A natural and instinctive artiste, Bayliss must be quite a sight in full flight whilst entertaining a packed party crowd.
Molux is the rather unflattering name of a two boy/two girl act with shed-loads of vocal talent. Immaculately turned out, both choreographically and sartorially, I suspect this quartet probably found their collective feet within a cruise ship entertainment team. But the Americanisation, in terms of diction, detracted from the otherwise favourable picture.
Blonde violinist Joanna Marie, in my view, requires a much more memorable stage name, but this silver gowned stunner provided a superbly eye-catching and ear-pleasing set. Everything appeared rosy for the fiddler with no surname, despite a bit of a false start due to a sound hitch.
From Taylor Swift to Dusty Springfield, North-West England based singer Lauren Kate Brown seems to cover an eclectic mix. Despite appearing youthful, Ms Brown has the look of an experienced campaigner and an abundance of interest should be forthcoming.
Closing out the first session were five guys called Beatvox, who performed a largely segued and a cappella set. The plosive beat-box style was augmented with hot harmonies and a sideways glance at crowd approach.
After taking an opportunity for a caffeine infusion, it was the turn of a splendidly tuneful and polished all-male crossover vocal harmony act, Crescendo. All four have the look and feel of experienced campaigners, who have been put together especially to cater for the ships.
Gemma Louise Edwards is a Liverpudlian show-girl style soprano. In my view
Ms Edwards possesses the kind of stagecraft, movement and vocal skills to score heavily in the traditional cruise cabaret market, Ms Edwards gave us a controlled and disciplined stab at Puccini’s beguiling aria, O Mia Babbino Caro (My beloved father), which came at least within hailing distance of my own personal favourite recording of this piece, from Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
Already known as front man of that great band Rang A Tang, Mike Snow put me in mind of the great multi-instrumentalist and entertainer Dick Van Winkle, who has recently retired from the business. The affable and offbeat Snow should provide a breath of fresh air for lovers of pure cabaret, who appreciate a 21st century style of presentation and delivery.
I have seen and enjoyed The Base Tones before and the tongue in cheek humour that accompanies the top-drawer harmony vocals is what sets this trio apart. Their take on the recent Megan Traynor hit, All about the Bass was a delight. In short, this is a terrific act!
Comedy nerd Mark Dolan skirted around subjects as diverse as locating his wife’s G-Spot and his lactose intolerance. Slightly quickening his delivery as he went along, Dolan proved the old adage that audiences only fund a comedian funny if they instantly like him and Mark Dolan is indeed as funny as he is engaging.
Mariano Miranda hails from Argentina, but is now based in the Balearic Islands. In the right kind of setting and in front of a sophisticated audience, this brilliant shining star of the guitar is sure to find an appreciative audience.
Closing out the second session of the four was. As far as I am aware, the only tribute of its kind, The Simon and Garfunkel Story. Complete with their own musicians, or possessing band parts when booked as a duo, this tribute attraction really must be on huge demand after recent London West-End success.
After the bookers were fed and watered, it was time to re-convene for the evening session and meet Rox/Vox- One Night of Rock. Here we saw and heard a segment from a production show, performed by a four singer/dancers and a tight five piece backing band. This is a well-drilled and complete show in a box, performed by highly accomplished and superbly costumed cast.
Also a new Compere on view for the evening session, this time in the shape of chirpy Cockney funny man Scott Miller. Here we saw a sharp-suited gag-merchant who is clearly familiar with all aspects of link work and is a proper old-school story-teller.
Alex Crow was a London bobby who traded in his truncheon for a microphone to become a mind-reader. Visual aids and cold-reading body language are his stock in trade and Crow’s performance constituted safe and cosy speciality entertainment.
Jessica Fostekew is part of the small and exclusive club of female stand-ups who attempts to bridge the ever narrowing gap between mainstream and alternative. Heavily pregnant with her first child on the way, the canny Fostekew used her bump to comedic effect during her observational comedy set.
The comedy section continued with Luke Graves, who came across very confidently indeed, with his comedy club style observational spot. I dare say Jack Applebaum knows what he is looking for and presumably cruise bookers are looking these days for those with a flair for the observational.
We3 is the name of a celebrated three male vocal and beat-box style of act, the like of which is becoming increasingly popular. From the hip and trendy school of presentation, the market for acts like We3 is undeniable.
Herbie Adams is a comedy ideas man and a very expert player of the professional comedy game, Adams is winsome and astute in pretty much equal measure. Surely such an expansive comedy entertainer, armed with such contrasting material really should be on the receiving end of some attractive work offers.
Character comedian Tony Marrese has the look of the old porn star Ron Jeremy (Or so they tell me). Performing this style of comedy in this particular situation is a big ask and maybe this wasn’t his night.
Similarly I’m sure that like Marrese before him, Addy Van Der Borgh will be more at home in the comedy club. However I hear that some cruise companies are keen on the observation and dare I saw alternative style of comedy, which would account for their inclusion here.
More a one-liner and gag merchant then the two acts before him, Mark Simmons is more of an accessible stand-up in terms of material. Some very clever slow-burn and surprise ending gags made this very funny man’s job look easy and I for one want to join his fan club!
Closing the entire event out was one of the more uniquely talented and original acts I have seen for years. JunNk are described as a vocal percussion speciality, but in reality these four frankly odd looking men provide much, much more. JunNk are one of the new breed of visual music acts, whose confection of percussion and vocal talent, allied to their amazing presentational skills, made them one of the highlights of a great day for Jack Applebaum and company.