Writer: Jonathan Metcalf
Musical Director: James Doughty
Reviewer: Ian Foster
One of the joys of cabaret concerts is the sheer range and diversity of material that they can pick from to best reflect the personalities and voices of performers, or to suit an overarching theme for their programme. Divas Unsung managed to work both these aspects into their Sunday evening gig at the Leicester Square Theatre, shining a light on some lesser known comedy numbers, empowerment anthems and showstoppers from musical theatre shows that have mostly slipped under the radar in the West End or on Broadway.
Of course, aficionados of the genre may score higher recognition points than your regular punter and the active fringe musical scene means some are less obscure than they might have been: Stephen Schwartz’s The Baker’s Wife, Jonathan Larson’s tick…tick…BOOM! and Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spiderwoman have all been seen in London relatively recently, though one would hard-pressed to find noted flops like Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Lestat or Michael Gore’s Carrie anywhere.
Linked together by compere James Barron, a team of six Divas worked their way through a varied selection of songs, teaming up occasionally and backed where necessary by a chorus of bright young things from the MTA. And under James Doughty’s musical direction, it proved a successful enterprise. Ashleigh Gray’s consummate stage presence made her contributions a highlight of the evening – the stirring ‘One of those Nights’ from Metropolis soared through the auditorium and Betty Blue Eyes’‘Nobody’, a rare moment of wide recognition, brimmed with vivacious energy.
But sharing the honours was Rebecca Trehearn, currently touring the country in Ghost the musical. Opting for a more character-driven approach, her rich voice layered in the emotion to make ‘Come To Your Senses’ (from tick…tick…BOOM!) utterly breath-taking and finding great pathos in ‘I Never Told Him I Love Him’ from an otherwise trashy Prisoner Cell Block H. Elsewhere, Ambra Caserotti and Kirby Lunn had fun on the duet ‘Ready To Be Loved’ from Edges, the former also engaging well with ‘Fly Fly Away’ from Catch Me If You Can.
The format of largely obscure songs combined with Barron’s patter did mean that there was precious little opportunity for the performers to express their own connections to the song choices and that was something that was missed. This kind of show catches fire when one feels the genuine love for the material not just through the singing but anecdotally as well, the opportunity to see well-loved performers singing off-duty not fully taken here. But that shouldn’t take away from a fascinating evening, extremely well performed, that could well provide inspiration for aspiring producers of the next big fringe musical revival.