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The Theatre Channel – The Theatre Cafe

The Theatre ChannelThe Theatre Channel really should be called The Musical Theatre Channel – if the first episode is anything to go by, there’s not a scintilla of spoken word or any extracts from plays in this series. The opening sequence is rather like the ‘stagey’ version of The West Wing, with the ‘Café Four’ (Alyn Hawke, Emily Langham, Sadie-Jean Shirley and Alex Woodward) striding along the pavement and then into the Theatre Café on St Martin’s Lane where they eventually burst into song.

‘Coffee in a Cardboard Cup’ from 70, Girls, 70, a Kander and Ebb musical, may be an upbeat number but it is essentially a lament with a tinge of dark humour about how the café’s customer base are typically cash-rich but time-poor, such that they just want their orders fulfilled quickly and do not have time for conversation or even pleasantries. This results in increased stress levels for the staff, who feel they are under pressure to make coffees in the shortest possible time. The song goes at a brisk pace to reflect their working environment, and the irony is not lost that the tune itself feels very rushed.

Six additional songs follow, from various musicals. These are good performances, for sure, but they ultimately offer nothing different that wouldn’t be gained from one of those compilation musical theatre concerts where various actors sing the very best numbers from the very best shows. Hearing the songs out of context has the potential, as ever, for anyone unfamiliar with the musicals from which they come from, to wonder what exactly is going on. The target audience for the series, however, will have no problems recognising each and every one of the selected numbers.

There’s a mixture of reprisals, such as Jenna Russell’s ‘The Ladies Who Lunch’ from the Stephen Sondheim musical Company, as well as opportunities to see something instantly recognisable yet somewhat different, such as Jodie Steele’s take on ‘Heaven On Their Minds’ from Jesus Christ Superstar, usually performed by a tenor.

It’s all performed and filmed to a very high standard, and while the long wait continues for the theatres to reopen fully, this series is bound to provide, for those who need it, some much needed musical theatre cheer.

Review by Chris Omaweng

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