From the moment I saw Carrie Hope Fletcher, I was mesmerised. A petite girl-next-door with a big voice, she blew me away when I saw snippets of her 3-year stint as Les Misérables’ tragic demi-heroine Éponine at the Queen’s Theatre, London, from 2013-2016.
So, naturally, I jumped at the chance to review a one-time exclusive pre-recorded event – a night at the London Coliseum with Fletcher herself, delivered by Broadway on Demand. As the show was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic, the performance took place in front of an empty theatre, but Carrie’s talent is such that all she needed was a microphone, a piano, and her tremendous voice. That was enough to fill the London Coliseum twice over, with plenty more to spare.
What a performance it was! The only thing that was missing was the rapturous applause and standing ovations such a stellar performance would have garnered.
With an engaged audience logged in and waiting for the show to start (eagerly speculating the set list in the comments section ahead of the performance), there was a ‘Carrie quiz’ to whet the audience’s appetite, where we all learned more about the woman behind the voice. I learned, for example, that Carrie is the younger sister of lead vocalist and songwriter Tom Fletcher – so talent obviously runs in the Fletcher family!
Then, much like Carrie herself, the show started unassumingly, quietly and without any fanfare – She took to the empty stage (save a piano and pianist) dressed in smart-casual attire. No elaborate outfits, no ostentatious staging: just her, a microphone and a piano. The whole piece was filmed beautifully, using very emotive lighting to enhance the intimacy of the show.
Being so stripped back may be the stuff of nightmares for even the most seasoned performer, having absolutely nowhere to hide – but naturally, Carrie was in her element. That was more than enough for a show-stopping, spine-tingling performance.
Acknowledging the bizarre circumstances of performing to an empty venue, Carrie felt “bittersweet that it’s not filled with you guys, but it feels good to be home”. And this woman, who looks like an ordinary girl-next door, is anything but ordinary – she is well and truly at home on the stage, where she belongs.
She then launched into the first of the night’s 10 songs, “They Just Keep Moving The Line” from the musical SMASH, which was a sensational start to the show – a song that lent itself perfectly to Fletcher’s beautiful, flawlessly melodic voice.
Whilst each song in the night’s repertoire allowed Carrie display her incredible vocal range, I felt that the set-list was quite the mishmash of songs from all genres of musical theatre, with no real ties to the performer (save for a few she mentions specifically).
An example was her choice of songs from Les Misérables – As the only British actress to play the role of both young Éponine and older Éponine, one would assume that Fletcher would be all too happy to belt out “On My Own”, a personal favourite of mine, and a song which she has a personal connection to. Instead, she favoured Fantine’s solo, the infamous “I Dreamed A Dream”, a demanding, emotive song that she pulled off effortlessly.
As the night’s only ode to Les Mis, it certainly packed a vocal punch – but I felt it was somewhat devoid of the song’s trademark raw emotion. This was perhaps helped along by the interesting piano accompaniment, which felt more upbeat and contemporary instead of the slow, sombre affair we’ve all come to expect from such a classic. Perhaps this was Carrie’s way of making such a big song her own – vocally, she did an amazing job, but I would have perhaps liked to have seen a little more emotion for such a song.
Similarly, her two duets with guest-star Oliver Ormson in the second part of the show were an octave short of a full hymn sheet for me. Their renditions of “You Matter To Me” (from Waitress) and “In A Crowd of Thousands (from Anastasia), whilst both beautiful in their own way and only enhanced by their chemistry together, felt a little lacklustre – I felt that the song choices didn’t quite keep pace with the rest of the night’s choices, which all showcased Carrie’s sensational voice to much greater effect.
That said, I don’t think there’s a song out there that Fletcher couldn’t knock out of the park – and this concert was a true testament to her resounding talent. The songs she performed during the concert’s 1 hour duration were perhaps neither conventional for her nor expected from her, but for true Carrie Hope Fletcher fans, it was a dream come true to see her in such an intimate setting, singing songs that she has not sung before (at least for the public).
An absolute triumph, from start to finish.
Reviewer: Hannah Wilde
Reviewed: 25th September 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★