Viva Cabaret Theatre Blackpool
November 14,15& 16
Producer; Barrie& Vicci Lucas
Reviewer; Mark Ritchie
A gathering of the light entertainment clans on the Fylde coast and another year for the UK’s biggest trade event, with more key bookers, more acts and more sessions than any other.
Compere Lee Lard was quick out of the blocks and into his one-man comedy tirade, which produces the desired comical/matey effect, whilst only offending the extremely offendable.
First up was a three handed Queen tribute act, Rock You and they are simply terrific! What a top-class start to the show from this one boy/two girl act, who are surely strong enough, in every department, to attract massive interest.
Keris Lea is a singer, who confirms the old show business maxim that, ladies of a certain dress size must possess ‘a personality’. A great voice certainly, but Miss Lea displays a bit of ‘chest-voice crackle’. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she is a smoker, but I will of course apologise if she is not.
The Shane Nolan Band are simply terrific in every department and deserve to be as busy as they actually are. This son of Shane Richie and Coleen Nolan and his band and dancers should light the blue touch-paper on every conceivable party firework.
If a choreographed 70’s disco act is what you are after, look no further than Flashback. At first glance this one girl/ two boy act had a bit of a ‘West-End Wendy’ look. On closer inspection, Flashback look like a fully-rounded cabaret act, with lots of popular appeal.
I have seen and enjoyed Triple Threat before. This three-handed guitar and beat-box act sound terrific and perform with skill and presence. Call me old-fashioned, but I can never get used to the idea of ripped jeans as stage wear. In addition, I am sure most stage managers would be having kittens, if someone walked on stage and plonked a glass of water right next to the stage boxes, for fairly obvious reasons.
In my view, humorously presented three-boy act West End Rats, may be well-advised to focus on vocal blend, before they become too wound-up in the satire within their impersonation.
I can imagine seasoned singer Roxanne standing at the side of the piano and singing a jazz set. Clearly theatre-trained, this lady sang very sweetly.
I am a bit of a fan of singer Dayton Grey. Here he gave us his latest musical tribute creation, Old School Flava, which for some reason reminded me of Lenny Henry’s comedy creation Theopolis P Wildebeast. Mr Grey is a great singer and whatever he does is sure to come up roses.
Crash is a five-handed party band, complete with two female singers out front, who are much more than mere eye candy. A huge repertoire I imagine and a band who should impress in any cabaret and band setting.
Stateside is the name of a three-male vocal act, who all look like they have been around the block and know their business inside out. Plenty of work for these guys I imagine.
Surely a massive hit during this present showcase season must be A Velvet Affair. If this two-boy and two girl, post-modern jukebox style cabaret act are not wading through the work offers for 2018, there is something very wrong with our business. Vocal harmonies are perfect, presentational skills are even more than perfect and the obvious star quality of this act is even better than that!
Soul Agents are two lads from Grimsby, namely Eddie and Chris, who are armed with some nifty backing tracks. These boys look like Clubland may be their best avenue for work and there should be an abundance of enquiries from this end of the market.
For the budget-conscious booker, with enquiries from those who don’t have the money for a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute band, there is Adam Coleman and his Jersey Boy Live. Dressing to impress, Mr Coleman made his showcase pitch very well.
Dominic Uppiah is a funky soul singer, who covered familiar ground musically and sang it very well. I speak from some experience when I write that male performers who own a bit of a midriff, ’bay-window’, really do have to dress carefully for the stage. Perhaps Mr Uppiah may wish to think about this.
Penultimate act in an engrossing opening session was The Decades Show, which is a one-boy/ two girl musical nostalgia act. Holiday parks and production shows should be the happy hunting ground for this act.
Closing the show out was one of my favourite covers bands Lady Z and the Monsters, although on this occasion this superb outfit were presenting their Lady Ga-Ga tribute show. The band are top class and the cap they put on the opening session was an impressive one.
Experts Choice. We ask two prominent attendees/bookers which acts were, in their view, the most marketable
JULIE JOHNSON (UK Cabaret ad-sales) chose-A Velvet Affair & Shane Nolan Band.
STEVE SALE (Unit-One entertainments) chose- A Velvet Affair and Dominic Uppiah.
Session two Tuesday evening
Compere Lee Lard was bang on the money, as the session opening in strong and convincing fashion with Pure Queen. This well-prepared Queen tribute band seem to have the musical credentials to pull off the true band feel. This was compelling viewing for higher-end tribute bookers and the evening session simply couldn’t have started any better.
Mr Ian Marchant, to afford him his full moniker, is a man who I could easily categorise as an ‘alternative juggler’. The comedy is pretty sophisticated and the humour probably works better in a more intimate or smaller venue, due to the subtlety and throwaway nature of the material.
Girl Project is a three-girl act, the members of which all look very young and fresh and all seem up for presenting the best show they possibly can. Sex sells and in the holiday centre market, Girl Project will too!
Ray Quinn is pretty much unknown to me, not being much of a telly-viewer, so a word with a well-known agent at the bar soon informed me of Quinn’s talent- show success. Once out on stage, this cheeky Scouse swing singer proved as smart and personable as can be. A natural stage performer and a lovely singer, Ray Quinn will need to be managed carefully, now in the hinterland that exists, once a telly talent show odyssey is over.
Her Country’s Men is a three-boy musical tribute to our servicemen. This really is a niche cabaret attraction, which will need to hit the target of an extremely limited market, in order to become a full-time project. I would imagine these guys are musical theatre performers, who are presenting this show as a side-line, between other jobs.
Celebrated and extremely qualified voice teacher and singer Biddy Ronelle is, for reasons best known to herself, simply known as ‘Biddy’. A real and true singer and entertainer, this young lady has the lot. After knowing her and speaking to her after her spot, I know that Biddy felt slightly disappointed at herself and rather throaty, after a recent illness. Even with reduced vocal capability, Biddy Ronelle did enough to convince anyone, in the know, that she is indeed a quality artiste.
Infinity is ostensibly a three-girl dance act, with gorgeous singer/dancer Carolynn Clare out front. Sex sells and Ms Clare is stunningly beautiful to look at. As ever with acts similar to this one, there is always ambiguity regarding the live vocal, but there is work-a-plenty for this type of act.
Jack of Hearts also fit the category of acts who present a reviewer with a problem, regarding the source of the entire live vocal. The lead vocalist certainly has a strong falsetto, but one of his ‘Seasons’, dropped the ball, with a dropped microphone which, for some reason, fell to the floor silently during their set.
I have to admit that I am a bit of a fan of comedy and music act The Inflations. There is nowhere near enough variety these days and this double act cross the barrier which exists between speciality and mainstream club work. This is a gem of an act!
I have seen and enjoyed three-boy act The Livertones before. This is a lovely act, complete with tight vocal harmony skills and natural stage presence. A massive hit on the night, The Livertones are as good as acts similar to this can hope to become.
Sometimes the showcase demons strike and there is no chance of recovery, even for an entertainer as professional and accomplished as Craig Deagan. Mr Deagan’s alter-ego is Sylvia Jubilee, an acerbic and spikey singer and entertainer, creating another dimension in Mr Deagan’s career. On the night, ‘Sylvia’ was suffering. Obviously finding the whole showcase experience a threatening one, the whole picture of bad luck was completed by what sounded like floppy vocal folds. Possible cause? A throat infection, I would imagine.
A successful boyhood TV talent show adventure, spawned a full-time career in show business for singer Lee Lambert. A trained voice and natural stage presence combine with a kind of fun, camp persona, which is both innate and winsome. Mr Lambert was such a hit on the night that he almost managed to silence ‘noisy corner’, near the bar. A collection of individuals who seemed to have forgotten that many people pay a lot of money at events like this, in order to be seen and HEARD.
Little Mix Magic may well be the best tribute to Little Mix that I have seen and heard so far. Vocally the match and blend were both enjoyable. In presentation terms, the costuming and choreography has been dealt with very thoroughly, by whoever put the act together and as a result, work should be plentiful on this showing.
Frankie Heart is a female singer, who seems to specialise in northern soul music. Miss Heart dresses to impress and this was a confident and assured performance from a well-prepared and tuneful singer, who should score heavily in a niche market.
A real highlight was The Ratpack- Swinging at the Sands, in terms of the tribute impersonations of Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr. The subtleties within the impersonations, allied with the musical prowess proved to be more than enough to make this a compelling and convincing showcase pitch.
Five-piece party band Rapture were also enormously successful on the night. A first-class set here from four male musicians and a quirky female singer out front who, for some reason reminded me of Cindy Lauper. Rapture are a top band in anyone’s estimation.
Closing the entire first day out was a live three-piece band The Hi-Jacks, who, given their name, are probably not going to land much fly-back work. A terrific set here though from a great little band, who gave us their versions of hits from The Killers and Oasis. Highly bookable and lots of business for sure!
Experts Choice; Tony Saxton- (business representative- UK Cabaret) chose- Pure Queen & The Hi-Jacks
Erica Crompton (Bigfoot Events) chose- Pure Queen and Rapture.
Showcase Productions Showcase 2017
Viva Cabaret Theatre, Blackpool
Reviewer: Mark Ritchie
Another session and a new Compere, this time experienced Blackpool comedian Carl Scofield, who was soon out in stage and doing his thing. Not a Compere certainly, but a highly accomplished comedian, who raised many laughs between the acts.
Sixties nostalgia band The Mc Coys UK are simply terrific. This seasoned looking four-piece should be busy with nostalgia work and 60’s events after this impressive showcase outing.
We Love the 90’s is a two girl/one boy vocal and dance act, performing 90’s party material with plenty of youthful zest. We were informed the act can be padded out with a five-piece line-up also available. There is little for audiences to do then, but sit or dance and enjoy.
Beauty School Dropouts is a three-girl act, who perform the music of Grease and Dirty Dancing. Ploughing this narrow musical furrow might seem fraught with limitations, but this is in fact the way that our business is going these days. These ladies can certainly sing and all seems set fair for yet another niche genre tribute attraction.
G: The man of a Thousand Voices was next on stage. Every now and then, as a reviewer, I have the pleasure to see something new, quirky and offbeat in the comedy market and G gave us just that. I’m not going to try and describe the act, other than to state that this is hilarious and original stuff and the best compliment I can pay G, is to state that I have seen nothing like him, since the days of the great Paul Melba.
Singer Fiona Shaw looks like a very experienced campaigner, with a number of strings to her career bow. Vocally it was perhaps a little early in the day and it would be interesting to know what kind of vocal warm-up Ms Shaw uses.
Bearded singer Tom Weston was a real highlight. Songs from Ed Sheeran and Rag and Bone Man were reeled off effortlessly. Mr Weston is a natural and instinctive entertainer, who should fill his diary with no problems at all.
Unify is the name of two boys and two girls, who are all still at various stages of school life. These kids have the look of stage-school about them and I hope they make a career out of show business, as they are simply terrific!
Capitol Blondes are two gorgeous girls, one tall- one not so tall, who sang and entertained, even taking the time to trawl the audience with radio mics, looking for people to sing with. Holiday park work should be abundant for these pretty and tuneful girls.
KJ Wood is a very experienced looking campaigner, who sings with real expression and gusto. This gentleman is a proper entertainer and expressed his desire, during the interview was Compere Carl Schofield, to, ‘bring a little happiness into this crazy world’. To which the quick-witted Schofield asked if anyone out front was booking North Korea.
Live party trio Cool as Vegas are just the boys, for those who want to get their party started very quickly. These guys arrived straight out of the top drawer of the band scene and a series of segued cheesy party hits followed. Great fun!
In a similarly vein, London Calling are another party band, who simply invite their audience to rock out and enjoy the music. It would be difficult to see how much better or more entertaining a band like this can be. In short, a terrific and genuine live band attraction.
Just when some believe there is precious little modern variety around these days, we were delighted to see and enjoy Bass Beatz. This is a two-girl dance and speciality act, who include UV work and acrobatics in their highly entertaining performance. Perhaps this is a sort of luxury filling, which could be added to a special show night?
Putting to one side the fact that Danielle Grace Williams is stunningly beautiful to look at, this top-quality singing star has also learned the saxophone and has put that in her act now. An entertainment industry professional, this artiste can appear successfully in any sphere of show business and her adaptability, allied to her great talent, makes Danielle Grace Williams rather special.
Three-girl vocal act, The Victory Vixens came next and proved that post-modern juke-box type acts are very much in demand these days. The caveat being that the presentational side and the harmonies simply have to be right and in the case of Victory Vixens, things look pretty much perfect to me!
Singer Belinda Hallows gave us The Ultimate Alternative Adele Experience. Performing in segued/ medley style chunks of songs, the ever-industrious Ms Hallows has spent a lot of money on costuming and the Adele-style patter was witty and abundant.
Next came Little Chix, who were performing a tribute to Little Mix, which must be the busiest tribute act request right now. Vocally things were right, costuming was also bang-on the money. However certain presentational difficulties may well impede their progress, in my view at least.
Closing the session out was Lianne Rivers band, a tremendously able four-piece outfit with the lively and energetic Miss Rivers out front. Another highly bookable act from a segment of the showcase, which should produce at least some work for all involved.
Jim Tait – Promotor and UK Cabaret columnist chose- G and Danielle Grace Williams
Paul Winteridge – Vern Allen Management chose- Danielle Grace Williams and London Calling
Another session and Lee Lard back in the saddle as show Compere and things kicked off brightly, with some magic and illusion. Timeless is a big-box illusion act, complete with a muscular Adonis, by the name of Chris de Rosa, and his ravishing and bendy assistant. The three main boxes used here looked like quality hand-made items and the pumping soundtrack fitted with the mode of presentation.
Geordie Diva singer Shelley Stevens has always fronted a band and still does, when demand is sufficient. As a solo singer, Ms Stevens has to be one of the most in-demand singers of her type in the UK. Shelley Stevens looks fantastic and sounds even better.
Late stand-in Michael Murray had put together a solo Frankie Valli tribute set, at the eleventh hour and very nice it was too. If Mr Murray chooses to add this show to his roster of show business projects, I’m sure he will be successful.
Seasoned professional Mark Allen never fails to impress. His easy style and great singing voice always leaves a happy audience.
Millie Brown gave us a segment of her Whitney Houston tribute show, which found favour on the night at the Viva. I have seen and enjoyed this artiste before and on the night Ms Brown looked a million dollars.
Spice Forever consists of five girls, one of which was, by general consensus of those seated around me, a dead-ringer and an accurate vocal soundalike. I’m not going to reveal which one could, in my view, have claimed look-a-like status, but in terms of body shape and the general state of the impressions, this act was, again in my view, wide of the mark. This was a shame really as, vocally the girls were impressive.
Adam Parker Brown opened up with showcase audience ‘favourite’, Shut Up and Dance. This ridiculously handsome young man gave a scintillating showcase performance and deserves to climb what remains of the show business ladder, after this quite outstanding showcase outing. A real standout performer in fact.
Sara Jones presented her tribute to Cher, Seriously Cher. Ms Jones impression was certainly one of the better ones, amongst the massed ranks of tall women in hooker boots, I have seen on my tribute rounds.
Memories of the Four Tops are just one of a number of similar successful acts, all represented by the nice people at Lucas Management. This has to be one of the higher-end acts on the books and they gave of their best here, as one would expect.
I’m afraid that Lauren Clark and her two singer/dancers, who collectively gave us their tribute to Jess Glynne, didn’t really work. In my view, being a fan of Jess Glynne’s myself, the vocal delivery from Ms Clark was far too shrill and ‘shouty’.
I have long admired the talent and stage presence of Martin Gregory Lambert. I suspect he won’t care too much about my thoughts on his performance but, for the record, it is my firmly held belief that this now svelte and handsome singer and entertainer is one of the best artistes of his type that I have ever come across. A special talent certainly and Martin Gregory Lambert has a voice which deserves to reach a much wider public. For those of us who think we know about entertainment, artistes like this are always a pleasure to watch and listen to.
Troubadour is an all-male four-part harmony group, who are impressive and polished in pretty much equal measure. One of the few acts on the bill with almost universal show business market appeal, Troubadour certainly delivered on the night.
Danielle Stoakes was next with her tribute to Adele. Miss Stoakes sings powerfully and in there lies the problem. The vocals don’t have any light and shade and, when performing a vocal impression like this one, a singer would need to know the difference between a head voice and a chest voice. Adele certainly does!
In every department Damian Matthews oozes class, confidence and vocal talent. In every other generation of show business, this man would be a massive star. Sadly, outside of the Cowell talent show circus, there is no rung on the ladder, for those for huge talent, such as Damian Matthews to progress.
Connor McKenna came in as a late addition to the bill and this very pretty boy certainly sings sweetly and should have made quite a few friends on the night, with his surprise appearance.
The DGW Band is basically the very wonderful Danielle Grace Williams and a superb, all-male, totally live backing band. Suitable for just about any kind of band work, Danielle and the boys should receive boat-loads of interest.
Closing the entire second day out was cabaret and function band The Big Shots. Male and female vocalists out front and three musicians behind, complete the smart and completely impressive picture.
Gary Casey entertainment agent chose- Troubadour and Damian Matthews
Dave Reeve Elevation entertainments chose- Damian Matthews and Adam Parker Brown.
UK National Tribute Day at Showcase productions showcase
November 16th 2017
Reviewer: Mark Ritchie
The inaugural National Tribute Day and Compere Shaun McGilloway proved to be a great choice.
First up on a day and evening full of tributes, a two-boy act called Electric 80’s Dreams. These guys are costumed and choreographed and have the look of trained show business professionals.
The Ultimate Alternative Paloma Faith Experience deserves a big-up for the costuming and the Paloma Faith music certainly seems to suit this singer, Belinda Hallows.
JJ Gibson is Bruno Mars and here we saw a Bruno lookalike, who can certainly sing and has all the moves. This is a hot tribute right now, so there will certainly be business for this young man.
Carabella- The Truth About Pink was top class vocally and I loved her costuming choice on the day. I would bet money that this lady has learned her business in the holiday parks.
Some tribute entertainers seem to actually live the part and Dan Patchett fits this category down to the ground. His impression, both musically and vocally, of Michael Buble, is spookily accurate.
Do It Like Jessie J came next. The lookalike quality was there to enjoy. There will great interest, I imagine, for this currently in-vogue tribute subject.
Kiss Tom is a singer from down South, who gave us a sample of his excellent Tom Jones tribute show, which is sure to be in demand.
Christie Clifford is a seasoned professional singer, who came up with a cracking Petula Clark tribute. Great tracks, lovely sweet voice and plenty of nostalgia tribute appeal.
Jenny Laine appeared next as Kylie. All any girl needs for this tribute is a sweet and clipped vocal style, some good costuming, a petite frame and a cute derriere. Ms Laine has all four.
North-east singer Kevin Finnigan has come up with a great idea. His Gangsters of Reggae show, features a one-man Ska and Reggae tribute.
A petite singer simply known as Amelia gave us her take on American teen-beat star Ariana Grande and there should be plenty of business for this girl.
Kallie Hudson gave us her tribute to Jess Glynne which, in my view, was a wee bit full throttle, compared to the real thing.
Mike Appleton gave us his excellent Michael Buble Experience. Mr Appleton doesn’t take himself too seriously and left us in no doubt that he was singing live!
Fiona Shaw looks like an experienced professional entertainer, with many strings to her bow. Her she was presenting her eye-catching Debbie Harry tribute.
LMX are yet another Little Mix tribute and we are seeing -plenty of those this showcase season, due to the principles of supply and demand. These girls should easily find favour.
The Jerseys brought the first tribute session to a close with their take on a Four seasons tribute, which was hugely enjoyable.
Closing the afternoon session out was Lee Brady with his solo Meatloaf show, Nearly Meatloaf. A real highlight, Mr Brady is a truly outstanding tribute artiste.
Beverley Ritchie (UK Cabaret) chose- Electric 80’s Dreams & Mike Appleton, Michael Buble Experience.
Tony Littley (GT Artistes) chose- Amilia as Ariana Grande & Do It Like Jessie J.
A final push, with more great tributes and QE11- the Best of Queen leading the way, as a true live band. Followed quickly by Scottish genre tribute Club 80’s, who were terrific in every department and were a huge hit on the night.
In terms of marketability, Here Come the Girls are a new act and made up of three top tribute artistes. The act is superb and the appeal is sure to be massive.
Elvis Beyond, which included two young girl dancers and an ‘Elvis’, who sang a Justin Bieber song, was extremely puzzling. While the tuneful Emily Abbiss is one of only two Ariana Grande tributes I have seen and enjoyed.
Andy Stine- Dead Ringer for Meatloaf was a huge highlight, as was the Rather Be- Jess Glynne Show, who came complete with her dancers.
Boisterous is a first class, all-male vocal harmony act, with polish and genuine star quality. Quite why they pigeon-hole themselves as a tribute to the music of Bruno Mars is frankly beyond me.
One of the main highlight of the entire event, in my view, was Hayley Ria Christian- Through the Knight, a stunning singer, who gave us a Tribute to Gladys Knight. Simply one of the most high-quality tributes I have seen.
The infectious enthusiasm of Tinier Tempeh (as Tiny Tempah of course), was a joy, but I found three- girl multi-tribute act Pink Perry Wine utterly confusing, for so many reasons.
The Rag and Soul man is a great idea in the shape of a tribute, while Beyonce- The Irreplaceable Tribute was rather less convincing.
Tommy Ryan- Sounds Like Buble is indeed an accurate statement in the shape of an act name, while Abbasolutely 70’s consists of two very experienced ladies, who should score heavily.
Chris Hendy- Forever Diamond came next and, in my view, aside from a slight physical resemblance, Mr Hendy sounds absolutely nothing like Mr Diamond!
The final act of the entire three days/evenings was it’s a Kind of Queen, featuring Joey Linden as Freddie. All of which capped off a terrific three days of business in Blackpool.
Despite some rather unsavoury moments in Blackpool this year, the organisers stamped on the disappointing behaviour of a tiny minority very promptly. As ever, with Barrie & Vicci Lucas, they were one step in front and long may they reign, with the biggest national showcase of them all.
Julie Dawber from A&B Entertainments chose- Hayley Ria Christian- through the Knight& Here Come the Girls.
Bill Chambers B&Z entertainments chose-Hayley Ria Christian- Through the Knight & Tinier Tempah.