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Soft Sessions Live In Concert | Review

In some ways, Soft Sessions Live in Concert isn’t supposed to work. West End actors not doing any choreography, and not putting on sparkling costumes, and not belting showtunes loud enough to be heard clearly in the back row of the upper circle. Not even stand and deliver. It’s sit and sing. And that’s about it. But it does work, at least partly because it’s a refreshing experience for the performers: they are given free rein (within reason, of course) to sing what they would like to sing.

Soft Sessions Live In ConcertThe result is a broad collection of singer-songwriter tunes and chart music, with only one showtune (‘My Funny Valentine’ from the 1937 Rodgers and Hart musical Babes in Arms) in the mix. There are some momentary reminders of the current (at the time of writing) restrictions in place, with the musicians sporting face coverings and a sign in the background reminding people to keep two metres apart whenever possible. Otherwise, the brightly lit room, aided by some natural daylight, gave the concert a leisurely matinee feel, even if your reviewer saw the show in the evening.

Brief ‘interviews’ are in between each song, giving the actors the opportunity to say what role music plays in their lives. The varied responses are fascinating, with some better able to articulate their thoughts at length, and others struggling a little – I liked the idea of music being a vehicle through which feelings and emotions can be expressed in ways that wouldn’t quite have the same impact through the spoken or written word.

The acoustic, stripped-back versions of songs allow the actors to provide a different interpretation to a song compared to the versions people will be familiar with from the radio (or Spotify, or wherever it is that people listen to music these days). And with the crystal clear delivery of musical theatre voices, there were lyrics that I hadn’t appreciated, or fully understood, before. A show of this nature also gives audiences the opportunity to listen to songs they may not have picked up on previously, particularly for people like yours truly whose music tastes largely consist of songs from musical productions. Even I’ve heard of Beyoncé, but Fatai, a 25-year-old singer-songwriter from Melbourne, was new to me, as was an R&B sister duo who go by ‘Chloe x Halle’).

One-act shows can be a dream for reviewers: as I remarked to another reviewer on social media recently, on an in-person pre-pandemic press night, a one-act show meant I could be on the Tube home before 9pm. That said, this one does feel a little too short, with six actors singing eight songs between them. There are a few duets, in which the harmonies are nothing short of heavenly, and as I have often said, it is better to leave the audience wanting more than to outstay one’s welcome. The actors and musicians were palpably enjoying themselves, which undoubtedly adds to the audience’s own pleasure.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Soft Sound London presents:
Grace Mouat (‘Hair’, ‘& Juliet’, ‘SIX’)
Jake Halsey-Jones (‘Hamilton’)
Courtney Stapleton (‘Dear Evan Hansen’, ‘SIX’)
Martha Kirby (‘Grease’, ‘Bat Out of Hell’)
Danielle Fiamanya (‘The Color Purple’, ‘& Juliet’, ‘Frozen’)
Eloise Davies (‘Grease’, ‘Be More Chill’)
in ‘SOFT SESSIONS LIVE IN CONCERT’

‘Soft Sessions Live In Concert’, streaming at 7.30pm on stream.theatre from 23 April – 2 May, is an intimate performance that takes Musical Theatre artists out of their comfort zones and pushes boundaries.

It’s time to ask the artist, what art they want to create…

Orchestrations by Alex Beetschen and Harrison Wilde
Videography by Callum Heinrich
Produced by Soft Sound London
Running time: 70 mins
https://www.stream.theatre/

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