Showcase Productions – session 4
The fourth and final session was up and running with a band from South Wales called Funky Monkey. The epitome of a charismatic front-man leads a four piece into party action and the early evening audience of bookers can’t have failed to have been impressed. This is a big sound from what appears to be a recently slimmed down line-up, which seems as fresh and slick as ever.
I would venture to suggest that singer Andy Abraham (AKA The singing bin-man) is one of the few Cowell TV talent show finalists who is now making a handsome living in mainstream cabaret. I would imagine that in Abraham’s world a live backing band would be an essential pre-requisite. I would envisage this charismatic performer whipping up quite a frenzy on a cruise ship stage, out in front of a big live band.
Compere for this evening session was comedian Lee Lard, who tried manfully to whip up enthusiasm for the arrival on stage of comedy entertainer Sue Sabine. Billed as ‘the funny lady with the big voice’, Sue Sabine is a Benidorm regular who, we hear like many entertainers over in Spain, are plotting their UK return, largely due to the stags and hens invasion which, we are told, has all but ruined the once thriving Costa Blanca cabaret scene. The impression created by this lady was that she was holding back on a more accustomed performance, which I would envisage as a lot broader and bawdier than she felt inclined to show us here.
The Mode are four boys, who present all vocal, boy band style cabaret. Not a lot in the way of choreographed movement here and the smart suit approach was adopted in terms of stage wear. Great harmonies though and although this is a side-line to another act these guys perform, the vocal quality is still a huge selling point.
Next came Midnight duo, a husband and wife team who perform a shed-load of seventies and eighties material armed with all the necessary smiling enthusiasm. Good vocal ability here from a smart and workable cabaret duo.
Remaining on the vocal duo trail, it was the turn of Panache. This act really is all about vocal quality and the same duet mode as is adopted by many similar acts, who seem to spend much time singing to each other. In short, a highly workable act for functions, holiday parks and the social club scene, where I would imagine Panache find the bulk of their work.
It has to be said that Jenny Bartley looked very jittery as she strode on stage in a glamorous and extremely flattering stage dress. Compere Lee Lard put the laughter on one side for a while and skilfully introduced Ms Bartley on stage just right. This was the first time up at a showcase for a young singer who admittedly is, in my view, in need of qualified vocal technique lessons, but has potential nonetheless.
Harris and Day perform comedy songs and patter. Having said that, this pigeon-holing description is oversimplifying things. These guys are comedy ideas men, who have come up with a scathingly insightful and darkly hilarious parody of telly talent shows, which is augmented with a comedy video show. Apparently anarchic in approach, but I would suggest that Harris and Day know where the taste line is drawn for any kind of work.
I have long been an admirer of the vocal talent displayed by singer Alicia Brady. Her stage gown and new carefully coiffured look suits her down to the ground. After so long as a reviewer, I still maintain the view that I held all those years ago, when the late Peter Hepple gave me my first review to write (Bob Monkhouse was the star), that some performers just fit on a stage. The stage is their home, where they thrive and burst into bloom. Ms Brady is just such an artiste and I genuinely hope she achieves her ambitions, as she strives for more work on London West End stages.
Sing Baby Sing were next on stage showcasing their Sounds of the Stylistics tribute show. All the falsetto’s, dance moves and harmonies were presented by four guys, all attired in sharp matching suits. Yet again a popular and potentially lucrative tribute act rolls off the production line.
I wasn’t sure about Tina Turner tribute artiste Sarah Jones at first. The outfit was amazing, but the dance moves and gait seemed exaggerated. As the set wore on, Ms Jones seemed to settle into her work and the vocal impression is simply stunning. In short Sarah Jones is a top-drawer tribute who deserves to work and work.
One of the members of tribute boy band One Directioners deserves a heap of praise for going on stage at all, given recently sustained hand and leg injuries. With the backstage area like a scene from Holby City, as first aid was administered, the boy and his mates soldiered on. I would like to see these lads again when they are not en-route to hospital.
I have to confess that I first saw and met Chris Lafferty when he was small boy growing up in a former mining village in Yorkshire. An ex- pupil of master vocal technique teacher Tony Wayne, Lafferty’s teenage star was very much in the ascendancy at one point. After apparently losing his way a little in recent times, Lafferty has a new management and new impetus. He has also included his skill as a violinist in the act and a bit of Vivaldi with a rock beat certainly perked up the late night proceedings.
Back to the duo market and the arrival of another girl/guy vocal duo, this time by the name of Double Sensation. Very similar in style and substance to Panache, who came earlier this session, this act also looked highly bookable and experienced.
Another Olly Murs tribute singer Andy Hammersley came next. Another jaunty hat and more happy songs here from a very decent singer. Again I point to the benchmark of this tribute set by the very considerable talent of singer and National Tribute Award-Winner Tristan Drew, but there is always plenty of room for more Murs.
Entering the home straight of this two day entertainment marathon and the turn of two girl act Supreme Soul. Act members Carolyn and Tracy both dress to impress and are armed with winning smiles and good stage movement skills. This act should have attracted some interest, particularly from the social club scene.
Another evening and another successful tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, this time known as Jersey 4. There are of course many opportunities for placing this particular tribute and I’m not going to get into the business of making too close a comparison between what is ostensibly the same act with different members. Suffice it to say, these guys didn’t reach the dizzy heights in presentation terms of a number of other examples of this tribute I have seen on my rounds.
After the final comic farewells from Lee Lard and his trusty clipboard and an adieu from the organisers, it was time to meet the final act of the entire event, Waterloo Live. A good quality Abba tribute to finish this event was just what the late night showcase survivors needed to put the icing on the Lucas family cake.
Barrie and Vicki Lucas should be hugely pleased with their first foray into open showcase territory. They did select a peach of a venue and as a brand new publication, we at UK Cabaret were very pleased to provide review coverage. According to a delighted Barrie Lucas, his showcase will return next year proving, if proof is needed that getting the business end right will always attract both bookers and acts alike.
Ros Shaw from TAS management chose- The Mode & Chris Lafferty
Alan Miles from Showtime management chose- Sing Baby Sing, Alicia Brady and Supreme Soul