At the beginning of October in 2020, The Theatre Café released the first episode of their new series, The Theatre Channel, presented by Adam Blanshay Productions. Rallying together some of the West End’s top performers, viewers are treated to fantastically produced musical numbers directed by Bill Deamer.
Each episode has its own unique theme, and so fittingly, the first one introduces and welcomes us to the café itself. Opening with ‘Coffee (In a Cardboard Cup)’ from And the World Goes Round, featuring series regulars ‘The Café Four’ (Alyn Hawke, Emily Langham, Sadie-Jean Shirley and Alex Woodward), we instantly get a taste for the energetic, perfected and stagey songs we’re in for. Deamer also lends his tight, upbeat choreography to the series, and it’s evident in this fun first number, although the piece did seem to go on for a little too long.
Welcoming us into the café is an absolutely stellar line up. From Tarinn Callender’s brilliant showmanship and Matt Henry MBE’s undeniably outstanding talent to Lucie Jones’ beautifully soft yet powerful vocals and Jenna Russell’s exceptional nuances of character, we are truly treated by the episode. Also featured is Carrie Hope Fletcher and Oliver Ormson, whose status as a real-life couple is translated into the chemistry during their performance of ‘Suddenly Seymour’ from Little Shop of Horrors. With Gregor Donnelly’s design transforming the beloved café into a flower shop, the pair’s sweet rendition of this song really reflects the true (and so needed) live theatre feel of the episode.
Perhaps the most exciting piece in the episode is Jodie Steele’s gender swapped performance of ‘Heaven on Their Minds’ from Jesus Christ Superstar. Taking us up onto a rooftop, the rendition is exciting and electric. Steele’s rocket-fuel voice is made for the rock number, she hits every high note flawlessly and the choreography highlights her sensational talent for performing. Seeing her as Judas is simply perfect.
Tickets for the episode cost £12, which for a 25-minute piece of recorded performances seems a bit of a push. It cannot be denied however, that there is a real cinematic feel; Deamer’s direction creates the essence of live theatre thoroughly. There’s an undoubtable load of cheesiness throughout, but The Theatre Channel truly is doing something different. The performers aren’t addressing the camera, they are simply performing as if they were on a stage to a full audience and it works excellently. Here, the talents are gloriously showcased in a way that many other platforms are failing to, and it would be nice to see some smaller names given this opportunity.
Welcome to the Café is an absolute gift for theatre fans. It is dynamic, stagey and perfected with a real variety of performances that remind us so impeccably of the joy of theatre.
Reviewer: Jessica Battison
Reviewed: 19th January 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★