Continuing the theme from last week’s ‘Less is More’ blog, I spent my Sunday night at The Pheasantry to see Kieran Brown’s ‘My Big Fat Musical Cabaret’. Having recently finished in Love Never Dies and soon to be joining the cast of Wicked, Kieran has put the time in-between to good use with this; his first solo cabaret, which is soon to be followed by a gig at Lauderdale House in November.
It was an amazing night all round because, as well as being a good friend, Kieran is also a rather talented young man with a big voice, and I think it’s safe to say that his first cabaret was a pretty big success. With the ever-wonderful Niall Bailey MD-ing, Kieran was joined by some special guests for the evening: Sophia Ragavelas, Jennifer Tierney, David Kristopher-Brown, Adam Lake and also four great current composers, Chris Passey, Tim Prottey-Jones, Michelle LaFortune and Pippa Cleary.
There was a great mix of songs, from the amusing ‘Facebook Song’, Be My Friend and The Morning After (Leave) to the softer ones from Metropolis and My Fair Lady – there was also a particularly lovely little ‘butterfly’ number, as well as nods to the past and future with a three-way of Wicked’s For Good and a truly exceptional rendition of Til I Hear You Sing from Love ever Dies which, quite literally, had everyone up on their feet.
This was my first time at The Pheasantry and I have to say, it’s a nice little venue. Downstairs of a Pizza Express restaurant, it holds around a 75-person capacity. There’s a central, raised stage which affords a decent view, wherever you’re seated (although you may need to turn certain chairs around to avoid having your back to the stage) and you can enjoy a delicious Pizza Express dinner with your cabaret. Perfect!
The cabaret venue can be just as important as the cabaret itself. There needs to be an intimate and relaxed atmosphere for this type of event and if you can’t see or if the space is too big, then part of the ‘cabaret magic’ is lost. I went to a cabaret night a few months ago which was held at the Leicester Square Theatre. With a 420 capacity, it’s a smallish venue in terms of being a West End theatre, but for a cabaret it’s big-scale and, though I couldn’t fault the performances, I was all too aware of the somewhat dampened atmosphere caused by the venue’s size.
I’ve never been to Lauderdale House, but I’ve been told by others who have that it’s not an ideal cabaret venue; a long narrow room with seating either side that isn’t tiered. If you find yourself at the back, chances are that you’re not going to see much of what is going on. Hopefully you’ll hear it all however, although the fact that it is an unmiked affair could cause problems for some.
There are some great places around for cabarets though. I do like a Sunday cabaret and have darkened the doorway of a good few of them now. The Steven Luke Walker concert and last year’s SimG Productions Christmas With… Hadley Fraser and Friends were my first forays back into the cabaret scene after a lengthy period away from such things. The SLW concert was at the Charing Cross Theatre and Christmas With… at Waterloo East Theatre. Both are quite small and cosy places that are ideal for a cabaret. I’ve also enjoyed nights at Freedom Bar, the Delfont Room and the Battersea Barge. The latter can be slightly tricky to find the first time, the entrance tucked away between two buildings. If I – with my awful sense of direction – can find it however, anybody can! These venues though are a perfect cabaret size and all provide seating with a good view and friendly service. It all helps to round off the cabaret experience nicely.
There are always cabaret nights going on somewhere in London and there are so many venues too. A good cabaret in a good venue is hard to beat. They’re out there – so explore our beautiful city of London and find them.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
17th October 2011