When snow hits, the UK goes into a blind panic. The roads stay empty and the streets are eerily quiet, with people barricaded inside their homes in protection against the dreaded white stuff. It takes something special to coax them out of that warm, safe little hidey-hole, but luckily, last night there was something special.
Giggin4Good had its second showcase at The Actor’s Church in Covent Garden on Sunday night, following on from the highly successful event last summer. In the beautiful setting of the popular church venue (which I was last in for MADTrust’s A West End Christmas), a mix of established and emerging musical theatre performers came together to provide the gift of song; all for the worthy cause of raising funds for the Great Ormond Street charity.
I sat in on some of the rehearsals earlier in the day and heard enough to know this was going to be an unmissable night. Sadly, the snow did keep some of the audience away, but there were more than enough people turning up in anticipatory glee and I dare say they left feeling it had been more than worth it. Recent MTA graduate Ziggie Skyward (doing double-duty as stage manager) opened with a beautiful rendition of Lance Horne’s ‘Last Day On Earth’, more than cementing her growing reputation as a star on the rise. She was only the first of the stream of talent taking to the stage though.
There was a whole host of golden-voiced West End ladies batting for the girls last night. The petite Rosa O’Reilly may be small in stature but not in voice – she recently recorded a track for emerging writer Joe Sterling’s debut album which, when it’s released, is sure to blow listeners away. Then there was Victoria Hamilton-Barritt who nearly took the roof off the church with a lively performance of the classic ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’. After all, it wouldn’t be true musical theatre without a bit of ‘Babs’. I was also hugely impressed by Alexia Khadime who, as always, was simply stunning in displaying the power of her voice, singing ‘Easy As Life’ and Beyonce’s ‘Listen’. Sabrina Aloueche’s ballad and host Annabel Lloyd’s ‘Flying Away’ from Scott Alan went down just as smoothly, but for me (and I suspect many of the audience too), one of the evening’s highlights was the ever-flawless Rebecca Caine with her exquisite performance of ‘Somebody Somewhere’, which followed a duet of ‘One More Kiss’ with her student Rosie Clarkson, whose soprano tones were just as breath-takingly beautiful.
The boys more than did their side proud though. It’s always a pleasure to find a new voice you enjoy and there were certainly a couple of them there last night. Joe Connor and David Brewis are two names to remember; Brewis in particular stood out by taking on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Till I Hear You Sing’, which will always be synonymous with Ramin Karimloo, but he more than stepped up to the challenge of the song. I’d also suggest looking up Shaun McCourt, who is currently touring with the UK production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat understudying the role of Joseph. He has a strong, rich tone to his voice and delivered an entertaining rendition of ‘Last One Picked’ from the musical Whoop-De-Doo. Standing out though were the boys from Legally Blonde. I’ve long enjoyed Ross Hunter’s distinctive voice and he belted out ‘Memphis Lives In Me’ with that renowned vigour, while Lincoln Stone showed what a powerful instrument he has with an inspired performance of ‘Anthem’ from Chess. There were also some great duets from former WWRY cast mates Sabrina Aloueche and Ross Hunter with ‘High Enough’ and a role-reversal of Wicked’s ‘Changed For Good’ from Joe Connor and David Brewis, as well as Victoria Hamilton-Barritt and Nathan Amzi, and Twinnie Lee-Moore and Max Milner.
Two of the most special performances of the night for me were the debut performances of some songs from two new British musicals: Roundabout by Joe Sterling and Robert Gould and My Land’s Shore by Christopher J Orton and Robert Gould. I’ve heard the recorded tracks for Sterling’s debut album, a majority of which are from the concept musical, and would say he is right in there with the rest of the great composers emerging in the UK. Two of his songs were showcased: accompanying himself on guitar, Sterling performed ‘Those Eyes’, sung by Jonathan Eio on the album, while Christopher Orton performed his track ‘What We Are Here For’. They received a good response from the audience and deservedly so. Joe Sterling is definitely one to watch and there will be plenty of opportunities coming up this year to hear more of him.
The studio recording of Welsh musical My Land’s Shore is launched today, but people have already been talking about this one for months. I first became aware of it through covering one of the ensemble recording sessions and immediately saw something very special in it. The book and score are passionate, evocative and inspiringly moving: I’ve been backing it ever since. The musical also has a great line-up of names attached, led by former Valjean Jonathan Williams, most of which were at The Actor’s Church last night to spread the music to a wider audience, albeit in a more time-friendly medley format. Williams, alongside Kelly-Anne Gower, Sarah Lark, Laura Selwood (standing in for Rhiannon Porter), Christopher Orton, Gareth Richards, Alexis James and Joe Sterling certainly ‘made Wales proud’ with their spine-tingling performances – I was sitting with lyricist/book writer Bob Gould and Simon Greiff of SimG Production, who released the cast album, and we were all very proud indeed. My Land’s Shore gained even more support last night, with Rebecca Caine tweeting about how wonderful it sounded and audience members flocking to buy the CD after the concert. The momentum for this musical continues to grow and it is gathering support at speed as it snowballs along; with more and more calls for a stage production, it’s surely only a matter of time before we see it in the West End, where it undoubtedly belongs.
The winter showcase of Giggin4Good was another sure-fire success for its organisers, Emma Howe, Karen Howe and Hayley Guild, who all deserve praise for putting together such a superb event. Last year’s concert raised over £2000 for Great Ormond Street, so let’s hope they managed to do even better this time around. It was great to go along and I’ll be certain to attend any further events – I’d urge all of you to do the same.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)