Rewrite This History
After their Cadogan Hall debut, Lambert Jackson Productions are back with West End Women, featuring three of the most prominent performers UK theatre has to offer: Rachel John, Lauren Samuels and Celinde Schoenmaker. Taking us on a loose history of women in theatre and melting our faces off with vocal gymnastics, this was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday evening.
Despite the biting wind outside and the snow enveloping the country, Cadogan Hall felt warm and buzzy as it was taken over by powerhouse performance followed by powerhouse performance. The trio opened with the upbeat ‘I Got Rhythm’, before some solo showcases of their voices. A simplistic and heartwarming rendition of ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ brought stillness to the room thanks to Celinde Schoenmaker. Lauren Samuels kept us in the 20s with a beautiful rendition of ‘Lady, be Good’; whilst Rachel John brought us a decade further forward with the sultry and smooth ‘Summertime’.
The ladies were then joined by the MX Masterclass choir for ‘Blow Gabriel Blow’, followed by a Rodgers and Hammerstein medley of ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’, ‘My Favourite Things’ and ‘If I Loved You’. The choir then gave a vivacious and humourous performance of ‘America’ which brought some real energy to the concert and gave us a glimpse into the future of the West End.
Also giving us the inside scoop on ‘Names To Remember’ were the wonderful competition winners who performed throughout the concert. Three became six as act two opened with the merry murderesses in the ‘Cell Block Tango’, before Brady Isaacs Pearce gave a spine tingling performance of ‘A Piece of Sky’. I’ve said before that Brady is one to watch out for and her continually more brilliant performances are just evidence of that. Watch out West End! Fourteen year old Talia Robens was equally as powerful with ‘Everything I Know’, which she performed with effortless grace.
West End Women presented music from 1930 all the way to 2017 and showed just how timeless the songs and stories are. Every performance was a faultless delight but some highlights among the highlights included Lauren’s gloriously clear renditions of ‘Maybe This Time’ and ‘Never Enough’; Celinde’s ‘Think of Me’ and Rachel’s ‘I Never Knew His Name’ (Bring Brooklyn to the West End now please). All three women gave vocal masterclasses as their technique and power provided the backbone to the entire night. Whilst each powerhouse brings something individual to the table, the trio also work gloriously together and their clear as glass voices ring out with pure sincerity and strength in the acoustically great space of Cadogan Hall.
Alongside the fantastic musicians (expertly led by Adam Hoskins) this was a really great night which reminded me of why the music part of musical theatre is so special and moving. For a masterclass in technique, go see these ladies in their future endeavours.
Love London Love Culture
Lambert Jackson Productions brought together powerful female voices for this stunning concert.
Following on from their successful concert There is Nothing Like a Dame, Lambert Jackson Productions continues to be inspired by female West End performers. Their latest offering showcasing the variety of talent that can be found on the West End stage – this time in the form of Rachel John, Lauren Samuels and Celinde Schoenmaker.
Beginning with a lovely jazzy rendition of ‘I Got Rhythm’, the concert was filled with a lovely mixture of songs that captured all of the talent on stage perfectly – mainly soulful and heartfelt numbers including renditions of ‘Summertime’ and ‘If I Loved You’ that were lovely to listen to – but it would have also been great to have some more upbeat songs in the mix as well.
Of course, it would be fair to say that all three of the leading ladies were on top form vocally, each highlighting what makes their vocals so special. Rachel John’s performances of ‘Summertime’ and ‘A New Life’ were wonderfully sultry and rich with emotion – capturing the full range of her vocal capabilities brilliantly. Meanwhile, Lauren Samuels had plenty of maturity and warmth vocally that was made clear in her renditions of ‘Maybe This Time’ and ‘Never Enough’ that were mesmerising to watch and listen to, while Celinde Schoenmaker brought the house down with her effortless sounding ‘Think of Me’.
But the evening was also a celebration of up and coming talent, with the MX Masterclass putting in lively performances of ‘Blow Gabrielle Blow’ and ‘America’ that really added to the energy and excitement levels. Vocally, they put in a lot of passion and characterisation that definitely put a smile on the audience’s face. Else, Lambert Jackson had also held a competition for potential to win a slot in the evening’s concert leading to some gorgeous renditions. In particular, fourteen year old Talia Robens gave a stunning rendition of ‘Everything I Know’ from In the Heights that shows great potential in what she will achieve in the future, while Lauren Shields, Kayla Carter and Martha Boon joined the three leading ladies for a sassy but also amusing rendition of ‘Cell Block Tango’.
Meanwhile, the orchestra led by conductor Adam Hoskins offered a thoughtful and elegant performance throughout – particularly when it came to ‘At the Ballet’ and ‘The Man I love’ that was graceful and easy to listen to. At no point did the music overpower any of the performers vocals – enhancing them well.
The evening was completed with a rousing rendition of ‘I’m a Woman’ that was received enthusiastically – but did leave me wondering why there wasn’t more uplifting songs throughout the programme to make the concert feel more like a celebration.
However, there is still no denying that this was a very soulful and elegant way to spend the evening and a true testament to the variety of current and rising talent that we have in the musical theatre industry.
Well, it said ‘West End Women’ on the tickets, so everyone knew what this concert was all about, but this didn’t stop presenter Lucy Drever from repeatedly reminding the audience who the ladies on stage were: “West! End! Women!”. Relatively few songs were introduced in their own right, however, and the running order, alas, was not made available to the said audience (leading to a slightly amusing comparison of notes between reviewers at the interval), but as ever with events of this nature, some tunes were as recognisable as others.
Anyone who happened to be at the concert but didn’t know much about these actresses didn’t find out anything about them, other than their versatility, professionalism and skill in tackling a broad range of songs, mostly from musical theatre. The close of the show could have been more celebratory, perhaps drawing from the feelgood music of the likes of Mamma Mia! or one of the Disney musicals. While Celinde Schoenmaker quite sublimely reprised ‘Think of Me’, having performed in the West End production of The Phantom of the Opera in the role of Christine Daaé, I didn’t pick up on either Rachel John or Lauren Samuels singing anything from their previous roles, though there might have been a feature for a role to come – after that performance of ‘Summertime’ from the Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, John would certainly be a fine contender to be part of a future production of that show.
There was Paul and Pasek’s ‘Never Enough’ (The Greatest Showman still counts as a musical, even if it is a movie rather than a stage show), while the final number, ‘I’m A Woman’, by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, is one of thirty-nine numbers that form the musical revue Smokey Joe’s Café, which played in the West End at the Prince of Wales Theatre from October 1996 to October 1998 (yes, I had to look that one up, having heard the song at various musical theatre concerts over the years but not quite being able to place it).
But for a show that billed itself as featuring “three superstars signing some of the biggest and best-loved showstoppers”, as far as ‘showstoppers’ go, there were omissions galore. True, the concert could have gone on for twice as long as it did and still left certain people disappointed that their favourite ‘showstopper’ wasn’t included, but the emphasis was largely on more mellow melodies than on belters. Thus nothing like ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ from Dreamgirls, ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ from Gypsy, or Funny Girl’s ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’.
An orchestra of twelve, conducted by Adam Hoskins, added much to proceedings, as did a 60-strong choir comprising the female students of the MX Masterclass, a musical theatre performance academy set up and run by stage musical stalwart Michael Xavier. A competition to win a slot in the ‘West End Women’ concert, involving the submission of a one-minute video recording of any musical theatre song to producers Lambert Jackson Productions, had no age restriction. Talia Robens, 14 years old, gave a lovely rendering of ‘Everything I Know’ from In The Heights. Brady Isaacs Pearce, 18 years old, brought the house down with ‘A Piece of Sky’ from Yentl, the 1983 motion picture. Lauren Shields, Kayla Carter and Martha Boon, also competition winners, opened the second half (with the leading trio) for ‘Cell Block Tango’ from Kander and Ebb’s Chicago.
With the house lights coming up after only two hours including interval, the show might have gone on a little longer to allow yet more of these ladies’ talents to be showcased. In the end, though, it is always better to leave one’s audience wanting more than outlasting one’s welcome, and this was a well-rehearsed, slick and smooth concert, and a warm and pleasant evening