In another instalment of the Theatre Café Channels’ concerts, some of the best West End talent perform a catalogue of stagey rock tunes. The obvious and over-done songs were thankfully not chosen and the choices here were unpredictable and entertaining.
We start off with Aquarius, where the “Theatre Café Four” welcome us into their space. The singers entice us in with pleasing harmonies and psychedelic editing. It’s great to see these guys pop up in the other performances and add some levels there too.
Francesca Jackson (Million Dollar Quartet) gives a stellar performance of Forgiven, from Jagged Little Pill. The Broadway hit, that evolved from Alanis Morisette’s album of the same name, asks for raw and impassioned vocals that Jackson excels at. If it ever jumps over the pond then this performance should put Jackson on the casting team’s radar.
Rob Houchen (Eugenius!) takes on the mammoth challenge that is Gethsemane. Houchen contemplates the predicament as he strolls the streets of the capital, stopping to scream the iconic “why should I die?”, at Nelson’s Column. In contrast to this, John Owen-Jones (The Phantom of the Opera) sits alone in the cafe singing the Chess classic, Pity the Child. His stripped-back approach becomes more intense as the song builds, finishing with those booming high notes he is known for. Both performances are gripping whilst also giving spectacular vocals.
Aisha Jawando (Tina) steps up the energy with a great Tommy number. Her distinct and powerful voice suit the character and I love the addition of some casual big kicks and dance breaks. It was an upbeat contrast to the other ballads.
From the show that introduced him to musical theatre, Alex Gaumond’s (Legally Blonde) song is the biggest surprise. Being the perfect balladier with telling eyes and a soothing sound, he also stuns by singing entirely in French. Oh, and its originally a female’s song.
In another switch, Shan Ako (Les Misérables) sings a heartfelt version of I’ll Cover You Reprise. Her sweet tone hits you from the first acapella line. The embellishments she sings all come organically from the superb acting and are so satisfying to listen to.
All in all, these stand-alone performances are put together very well by the Theatre Café. There is no story, no through line, but if you take the show for what it is; it’s a great showcase of theatre talent.
Reviewer: Coral Mourant
Reviewed: 22nd January 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★