A new session and a new compere, this time in the recently slimmed down and now svelte figure of comedian Lee Lard. ‘I hope you’re not disappointed as I’m not Tank Sherman- but at least you’ve not got Craig Harper’, Lard quipped as he warmed up the early evening attendees. In-jokes are of course part and parcel of the trade showcase scene and Lard, now looking much more like Jimmy Carr than Peter Kaye in terms of girth and the subsequent slimming effect on his face, is a master of the bon-mot.
Dreams of Fleetwood Mac are a simply outstanding and totally live tribute band. Musicians of this stature are sure to be very comfortable with whatever they present and their own ‘Stevie Niks’, a lady called Sonia, certainly dresses the part.
After another caustic and hilarious intervention from Lee Lard, during which the audience were informed that I was reviewing the showcase for UK Cabaret as The Stage had given me the sack, (which is actually not too far from the truth), it was on with the show.
Shaker is an outstanding four piece live covers band. I feel it incumbent in this publication that band reviews should stipulate when a band are playing 100% live. Shaker belong to another band age, before the gimmicks and click-tracks and fake keyboard players who work the lights. These lads are straight out of the musical top-drawer.
Grace is the name of three ladies who play acoustic guitars and violins. Augmented by quality harmony vocals and superior presentation skills, this act have the potential to become one of the biggest discoveries of this entire showcase season. This was my first look at this act and the marketing potential is endless. Grace is a name which seems to fit an act that ticks all the boxes for so many areas of our industry. In short, a real stand-out attraction!
The impressive standard of the acts on show continued with stand-out vocalist James Cockerill. This charismatic performer has a touch of the Anthony Newley about him. Cockerill acts and performs a song, as opposed to merely singing the song. Performance skills such as his should be both nurtured and rewarded.
Jessie Live is the name of another tribute band, this time the chosen subject is of course Jessie Jay. This is a big show to take on the road with a three piece semi-live band, four well-drilled girl dancers, oodles of revealing and not so revealing costumes and of course ‘Jessie’. I would imagine the higher end of the fee scale will be sought here, for a quality tribute attraction with plenty of popular appeal.
Next came Bel-Voci, and this new act opened up with their version of World in Union. This one female/ two male crossover pop opera act must be making inroads in terms of securing the better class cabaret work by now. The vocal blend is impressive to say the very least and their version of Do You Hear the People Sing, from Les Miserable creates virtually the same feeling of euphoria as actually going along to see the real thing.
This is the third time I have seen female multi-instrumentalist Jo Ashcroft already this showcase season. I can only repeat this glamorous and talented singer/ all-round entertainer is tailor-made for many a cruise ship cabaret stage.
The Jerseys are no stranger to the stage at Viva Cabaret having already performed at the venue many times before this summer gone. There are many Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tributes these days and each seems to find their level and their own place within the market. In my view,there are better examples of this tribute out there, but these guys should work and work nonetheless.
Linacre and Knights are a new two male musical double act, who perform songs from musical theatre-land and light opera. Rob Linacre, part of the once celebrated Linacre show business family and Dan Knights, a refugee from the band scene, have hit upon an idea which is sure to find favour in certain areas of the cruise ship cabaret market. The dress suit approach and old style cabaret values, when presented by male singers of this calibre, surely can’t fail to find favour.
Nya King as Whitney Houston entered looking like the proverbial million dollars, resplendent in her golden gown. The huge reaction from the showcase audience said it all ,as this highly gifted singer gave it all she had.
SBX Entertainment is an eight handed troupe of sporty guys, all performing disciplines of balance and skill involving footballs, basketballs and BMX bikes. All world record holders, this company would look great at product launches or corporate days. Spectacular skills here from a highly specialised attraction.
Knockabout comedy and general mayhem are the stock in trade of two boy comedy act Barricade. Somehow these lads seem to have lost their way a little career-wise in recent times. Hopefully a new recent new management move will give renewed impetus to a couple of comedy ideas man, who can be devastatingly funny in the right kind of live situation.
Three gorgeous girl singer/dancers came next. Collectively known as The Honeypies, we heard real vocal harmony quality from a trio who look as good as they sound. One of the girls then jumped into the keyboards to perform an Emily Sande number in perfect harmony and the effect was simply stunning.
Young singer Joseph O’Brien is a very gifted and utterly charming performer who took his chance well in front of the huge trade audience. The potential for better class work is considerable, provided this bonny charmer avails himself with written arrangements and continues to place himself in the right shop windows.
The Octaves are four young men whose close harmony work must make them huge favourites at all manner of functions. This is a tremendous attraction whose vocal style seems to lend itself to a variety of musical genre. Hard to place as a cabaret act possibly, but adult only holiday audiences the corporates, hotels and cruise ships should all lap up The Octaves.
Singer Lee Brady presented his Trouble- Maker tribute to Olly Murrs. The current market-leader and winner at the national tribute awards is Tristan Drew. In my view Brady’s tribute does not hit the right note in either lookalike or sound-alike terms.
Little Vinnie is a great soul-man style singer, whose set was somewhat marred with some very bass-heavy backing tracks, which faded-out karaoke style. Why spoil the ship for a halfpenny worth of tar? I will never know why professional acts don’t invest in suitable backing tracks.
Closing the entire first evening out in the customary fashion was a semi-live band by the name of Popwork. These guys may have waited a long time for turn on stage, but choosing the wise option of delivering their entire set in segue form, this energetic and young-image four piece placed an impressive cap on a top quality evening of showcase cabaret
For most of those present, it was after-show party time. For this reviewer it was time to hit the hay and look forward to sessions three and four.
Brian Warner of Warner Entertainments chose- The Jerseys & Nya King
Singer and Lucas Management assistant Marianne Corlett chose Grace & The Jerseys