I arrived at Proud Cabaret City and was immediately transported back to the 1920s as I went down the stairs to this underground burlesque speakeasy based club. I fully expected to see flapper girls dancing the Charleston in the dance floor space.
A warm welcome awaited me and upon being shown to our reserved table at the front of the stage the attentive staff advised of what was on offer for the evening. The food which arrived promptly was delicious and the chef obviously had a very creative imagination with the menu.
Our host for the evening Jess Robinson started circulating before the show started and put everyone at ease. The entertainment for the evening commenced with a hilarious ice breaker where the two front tables had a hat with slips of paper within them. Then at a given moment we were told to reach into the hat and pull out a slip of paper and show it to Jess. Hilarity ensued as the vocally versatile Jess performed well known songs in the style of another well-known artist. To start with ‘Lily Allen’ sang Bohemian Rhapsody – absolutely inspired! The spontaneity & unpredictability of this ice breaker was ingenious and did its job perfectly. We were relaxed and ready for the rest of the show.
The band comprising of two guitarists, a drummer and pianist, (Matt, Mark, Gareth and Simon whose brainchild this is) were obviously very talented as they adapted and seemed to deal with anything thrown at them with incredible versatility whilst not overpowering the acts in a relatively small intimate setting.
The artistes sing two songs and to start the evening we had Alex Lodge whose charismatic stage presence was a great opener. Followed by the positively charming voice of Francesca Leyland.
Harry Hart delighted us with “Way Ahead of My Time” aka The Caveman resplendent with rainbow braces. Fresh from his showcase performance graduating from the Brighton Academy it is great to see new talent being given an opportunity. Also joining him on stage for his second song was a fellow graduate Laura-Leigh Parter who gave an accomplished performance and Simon Pickering (pianist and creator of The Follow Spot) can be congratulated in finding and supporting new promising talents such as these two!
The second act opened with more incredible impersonations by Jess. For me two highlights were her Billie Holiday singing Shake It Off, which was sheer bliss and Natalie Cassidy (Sonia from Eastenders) with 500 miles. The audience was in stitches of laughter.
The headliners were then introduced by an unexpected guest star – Jordan Lee Davies who first sung for us brilliantly. Zoe Curlett and Sophia Ragavelas were both on top form providing us with such delights as a Rodgers and Hammerstein medley, and a Michael Jackson medley. I loved Zoe singing “I’m Just A Girl Who Can’t Say No” and it wasn’t hard to see why Sophia was nominated for a What’s-On-Stage award for her role in the Take That musical when she sang “Love Ain’t Here Anymore” beautifully. Completing the evening with a duet and sing along “don’t stop believin'” made for a fantastic finale.
Both effused stage presence and worked both the audience and band effortlessly. This is the first full season of The Follow Spot at Proud Cabaret City. Both the venue and the show are made for each other. If there is one thing that I was disappointed with it was that more people didn’t get to witness this fantastic fun and entertaining evening.
Still in its infancy – if I were you, I’d get yourself along to the next show on April 26th with headliner Shona White because once word really gets out how good this experience is tickets will become the hottest ticket in town. So grab one now or watch out for more dates soon before you miss out!
Review by Caroline Hanks-Farmer
Sunday March 29th – Zoe Curlett and Sophia Ragavelas
Firm friends Zoe and Sophia collectively boast an impressive array of some of the most dramatic and vocally challenging leading roles in musical theatre. Between them they could probably stage most of Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, but have promised not to do so! Instead, expect a range of songs, both irreverent and moving as these two stars share an evening of fun and banter. Expect profanity!