At the tail-end of my university fresher’s week on the 29h of September, I found myself traveling over to the Norwich Playhouse for the West End Presents, a new cabaret concept organised by Luke Hudson and Andrew Bryant.
While I tried to put off going to this cabaret for a while (not because I didn’t want to go, but because I started university the next morning!) in the end I had to get a ticket because of the billing they bragged – performing on the night would be Niall Sheehy, Chlöe Hart, Charlotte Scott, Ashleigh Gray and Craig Mather. It’s safe to say this was one cabaret I definitely didn’t want to miss.
The setlist for the show felt like a perfect mix of the standard musical theatre numbers you’d be looking for in a cabaret like this, alongside some modern or ‘up and coming’ numbers, so there was definitely something for everyone! To make things a bit clearer I’m going to write about each performer separately otherwise I’m going to get confused and miss things out, but obviously the set was a mix of all those mentioned below!
Niall Sheehy, currently in Les Miserables, opened the show with the cheeky “Proud Lady” number and acted as a sort of host for quite a lot of the evening. As well as opening the show, he partook in duets with Craig Mather in “You and Me (But Mostly Me)” from The Book of Mormon and with Ashleigh Gray in “Hammer to Fall” from We Will Rock You. His duet with Craig was a match made as they both clicked with the comedy of the song so well, and Niall also performed more heartfelt songs such as “Make Them Hear You” and “Ask Me Why”.
Craig Mather is known recently for having played the role of Marius in Les Miserables but is currently getting ready to launch his new EP in November, and having performed “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, later on in the night he performed one of his own songs “Hey Girl” – a catchy upbeat song that’ll be on his EP (that I’ll definitely listen to!). Craig’s last solo of the night was “Evermore Without You”, which rounded of his list of songs beautifully and showed youthful versatility in what he can perform.
Having seen Ashleigh Gray, soon to be in the Secret Garden, perform in Diva’s Unsung the weekend before, I was very happy to be hearing her again! Her first song of the night was the very apt and powerfully sung “Cabaret”, later on followed by “The Wizard and I” (fitting as Gray has previously been Standby Elphaba in Wicked). Ashleigh closed her solo’s with a stunning version of “Songbird”.
As well as having vocalists in the cabaret, the Heather Millan School of Dance joined the show to accompany musical numbers such as “Hammer to Fall” and the closing number of the show – “Euphoria”.
Well, if I’ve managed to keep up a semi-professional stance in this blog so far, here’s the point where it’ll probably fall apart. Anyone who knows me even slightly will probably have heard me talk about Chlöe Hart and Charlotte Scott and how fantastic I think they are, hence why I’ve left them until last on here to hopefully stem however much rambling is about to happen… It’s already started ha! I have to say firstly that they’re two of the kindest ladies in theatre that I’ve met and they genuinely deserve every piece of success in their careers.
Chlöe made her West End debut as Tracy in Hairspray, and since then has been in Les Miserables covering Madame Thenardier, and is currently in Wicked. Alongside being in the West End, Chlöe has partaken in many a cabaret and professional concert including Chess in Concert, the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert and most recently Scott Alan Live at the O2, so she’s no stranger to performing on a variety of stages! Chlöe’s first performance of the evening was an ethereal rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream”, she then later followed this with what is quickly becoming her staple song (for good reason!) – “Out of My Head”. This is a song written by American composers Kooman and Dimond who Chlöe has basically been a UK ambassador for, and it’s always absolutely beautifully sung by her. It’s so good, I’m popping the link for it here so any of you reading this have no excuse not to listen to it!
Joined by Charlotte Scott, Chlöe and her sung a divine duet of “I Still Believe” from Miss Saigon. The Heather Millan School of Dance took to the stage accompanying Chlöe in the fun up-beat “Any Way You Want It”, and for her last solo Chlöe stunned the audience with an immense performance of “Don’t Rain on My Parade”, gaining a mid-song applause and applause before she’d even finished the last note. Lastly, Chlöe and Charlotte duetted together in the hit from TV show Smash “Let Me Be Your Star”, a song quickly becoming an expected cabaret number for strong female vocalists, and they definitely did the song proud! Honestly if you don’t have the name ‘Chlöe Hart’ on your list of people to watch out for in the theatre-world then you’re a fool, with her incomparable voice and talent she’s going to be hitting even bigger roles in the future.
Last but by no means least I’ll be talking about Norwich-star Charlotte Scott! Due to the cabaret being held in Norwich I’m pretty sure the majority of the audience would’ve known who she is and would be there to cheer her on, which was fantastic. Charlotte’s credits most recently include Suzy in Pipe Dream, cover Kathy Seldon in Singin’ in the Rain and cover Glinda/Nessarose in Wicked. She began her solo’s with “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”, putting her own spin on the classic. Next up she performed “Unusual Way” from Nine, going from massive notes to mellow moments with such ease. Before performing “Unusual Way” Charlotte mentioned how lovely it was to be able to sing numbers like this that they wouldn’t be able to do in auditions etc, which was a really nice personal touch. Chlöe also mentioned this and the few anecdotal moments in the cabaret were perfectly placed and helped the audience connect with the performers I feel. As I wrote about before, her and Chlöe duetted on “I Still Believe” which was a delight to hear.
However, I think the absolute jaw-drop moment of the evening would have to be Charlotte singing “Climb Every Mountain” from the Sound of Music. Having just been in a Rodgers and Hammerstein show – Pipe Dream, and being a big fan of R&H it seems absolutely right she should sing this song and my goodness did she sing it incredibly! The applause for her after this song was absolutely ridiculous, I haven’t ever heard cheers like that in a venue that size!
To close the show, the cast came together to sing pop Eurovision number “Euphoria”, something that definitely ended up being stuck in everyone’s head! Special mentions have to go to Ellie Verkerk for the musical direction of the show and playing through all of it, and to Luke Hudson and Andrew Bryant for organising the evening, I’ve only heard compliments from others about it so I hope you’re all feeling very proud.
Altogether I thought the night was a great success, every number I enjoyed and they got the balance of number per performer spot on. With a setlist healthily mixed of solid musical theatre, pop, cabaret and original content I feel that they really pulled together a very enjoyable show and I look forward to hearing news of the next West End Presents!