Showcase Productions 2014 – session 1
Viva Cabaret Blackpool
Producer Barrie Lucas& Colin Jones
November 3rd and 4th
Blackpool seafront during the famous illuminations provides a great backdrop for an inaugural event such as this. Producer Barrie Lucas has been on the wrong end of some, in my view, thoroughly undeserved flak from certain quarters, apparently for daring to challenge the status quo in showcase land. Viva is a great venue for a showcase given the sound and light advantages and the superior staging facilities.
The opening session began with a song and a warm, effusive welcome from compere Scott Gallagher. Bright, breezy and business-like, as well as extremely tuneful, this entertainer from the new breed of compere/presenters proved to be a considerable asset.
The semi-live Jemma Jenkins Band featured three musicians, two sexy and sassy singer/dancers, all fronted by the powerhouse, yet pouting and pretty singer Jenna Jenkins. Not a live band admittedly, but Ms Jenkins has recently returned from a spot of maternity leave and is apparently in very fine fettle indeed and ready to rock.
Solo singer Hayley Horne showcased her Motown Heaven show resplendent in a turquoise gown. Working with backing tracks which contained many peaks, dips and fade-outs, for some reason I envisaged this young lady as part of a larger act, as opposed to a solo artiste.
We seem to be swamped with smart young swing singers these days and the latest swinger off the production line, Andrew Lloyd was next up. Bearded and resembling what I imagine a singing bank manager to look like, Lloyd seemed somewhat fazed by a feeding back monitor. In my view Lloyd’s voice isn’t all that suited to smooth and silky swing.
Blonde and willowy singer Emma Wright has an impressive CV already and this showcase outing will have done her no harm whatsoever. A version of the Etta James classic At Last was confidently belted out by a singer who is very simply at the peak of her powers.
Equally impressive was boy/girl keyboards, guitar and vocals duo The Notes. Sure to shine in a meet and greet situation, in a music lounge or indeed on a cabaret stage The Notes are equally strong in the vocal department and were surely one of the most marketable acts of the entire showcase.
Looking and sounding more like Katy Perry than Katy Perry, next came Kelly Harrison and her two female dancers. Billed as ‘one girl- five tributes’ it seems Ms Harrison is as versatile as she is eclectic. Well costumed and extremely impressive in choreographic terms, this show is a must for the family holiday parks.
The last time I saw Martin James, he was performing a magic show. Now involved in the world of patter and sketch based comedy, this is a show business career funny-man, who gave an object lesson in how to handle a tricky afternoon showcase slot. Spoof comedy magic lovers should take note, Martin James is funny, original and should be a very busy young man on this showing.
I saw and reviewed vocal harmony trio MP3 recently at the Curtains Up event at Purfleet Circus Tavern in balmy sub-tropical Essex. The review appeared in October’s UK Cabaret. Here in breezy Blackpool MP3 were equally impressive.
Blackpool cabaret singer Martin Heyward hopped up the prom to remind everyone what a good old fashioned crooner looks like. An experienced campaigner, I’m sure Heyward will have found his short trip well worthwhile.
Guilty Pleasures is the name of a brand new act featuring four ravishing girls, who gave it their best shot. Pitching problems were all too easy to spot and in my view this act did not look ready for this level of activity just yet.
Things improved a fair bit with the arrival of M-Boyz. Ostensibly a Take That tribute these four bonny lads soon showed their willingness to break out of their tribute confines. All the harmonies sounded live to me and this is surely a highly marketable act.
A solo singer by the Samantha came next and soon announced herself with a belting and ballsy Bassey cover. Apparently short of a surname, what Samantha certainly does possesses a fine set of pipes. There is an unwritten rule in show business that ladies of a certain dress size must possess a ‘personality’, or be funny in order to attract what remains these days of the good class cabaret work. This rather gothic looking singer is adorned with a wide selection of tattoos, frowned upon in certain areas of our industry. All of which will surely limit her appeal, despite her truly extraordinary voice.
There are reams of Blues Brothers out there, but very few have attempted the Sister Act tribute. Apart from a microphone problem at the beginning of the set and the ever present problem of an ambiguity in terms of some of the live vocal, which admittedly a general public viewing audience may well not even notice, this Sister Act deliver their tribute with energy and gusto.
Closing the opening session out was one of the best known Abba tributes Voulez Vous. This acts name goes before them and their slick and carefully rehearsed show is just as well presented as ever. The currently leading Abba tribute? Possibly!
At this showcase, within each individual session we gave two agent/bookers a chance to say who their favourite act of the session was. We call this our Experts Choice. Below are the names of the agent/bookers and their choices for this session.
Simon Quarmby of Music Factory Entertainment group chose- Samantha &MP3
Paul Rogers of Layton entertainments Ltd chose- Martin James and Jemma Jenkins Band