Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys[rating:4]
Currently appearing in the West End production of Wicked, Jacqueline Hughes returns to her home town with her debut cabaret, From East to West and Back Again.
Hughes starts as she means to go on, opening with the Streisand classic “Don’t Rain on my Parade” and the parade of show-stoppers just keeps coming, from “All That Jazz” to “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”, each selection perfectly showcasing her powerhouse voice.
As well as Hughes’ engaging personality and the welcoming intimacy of the venue, what elevates this above the run of the mill cabaret fodder is the well devised programme. There’s an eclectic mix of the classic: “Broadway Baby”; the familiar: “On My Own”; some cleverly re-worked pop numbers: “Poker Face”, “Imagine”, “Songbird” and a smattering of the downright obscure: “Alto’s Lament” and “Taylor the Latte Boy” (sung by MD Alison Rona Cleland) both by cult composers Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler and “An Old Fashioned Love Story” from Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party, all of which delight. There’s a pleasing mix of solos and duets, guest performances, interaction, emotional and celebratory moments.
This is an intensely personal show and Hughes acknowledges both her roots and her beginnings as a performer, indeed one of her guests is her first singing teacher whom she cites as the person who started her on her performing career and who touchingly performs “The Look of Love” and “Over the Rainbow”. Hughes’ other guest is life-long best friend Lyndsey Gardiner, currently appearing in Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s. Gardiner delivers a touching rendition of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from Phantom and a stunning display of vocal gymnastics in Jeanine Tesori’s “The Girl From 14G” originally made famous by Kristin Chenoweth. Both women then sing “For Good” a touching tribute to their friendship. To her credit Hughes isn’t afraid to share the spotlight and her two special guests more than hold their own, both having their own moments in the spotlight. Mention must also be made of MDAlison Rona Cleland whose impressive accompaniment on both piano and guitar and characterful vocals reveal her to be yet another star in the making.
Hughes (and her guest Gardiner) are perfect examples of how good you need to be to even stand on a West End stage and the reality is that both of these stunningly talented performers are ensemble members. This cabaret allows Hughes her rightful place in the spotlight and with her rendition of “The Wizard and I” and the revelation that next year she will be understudying the rôle of Elphaba in Wicked after over two years in the production, hopefully, she will finally get her chance to shine and gain the plaudits she so richly deserves.