The annual Trevor George, two-day showcase, otherwise known as Singin’ In The Rain - the Paignton production, due to the inclement weather that usually coincides with it, is deservedly a well established date in most bookers and agents’ diaries.
There are, of course, plenty of other showcases during the year, but the agency’s Major Live Event has always had a tradition of presenting a good mix of traditional entertainers, along with interesting speciality acts, like duo Suspension of Disbelief, a great name for a really nice acrobatic act. They keep you glued to their various, seemingly impossible contortions at height, from the moment they swing into action.
Introducing the night’s entertainment, Trevor George MD, Anne George, had said: “What you [bookers] asked for was some more interesting acts, and that’s what we’ve hopefully given you.” It’s hard to argue when you see Suspension duo Nicole and James creatively intertwining themselves aerially in an impressive tripod-style frame on the Beverley Parks stage. Not something you see everyday, and a real visual treat.
Cue then the session’s compere, Dean Winters, described as ‘The little man with the big personality.’ A lot hinges on the ‘host’ at such gigs, and while Winters certainly didn’t let anyone down on the effort front, his material seemed a little dated, and at times, he struggled to keep the audience on his side. But, being the trouper he is, he kept going and just about won through.
With some 14 years’ experience of trumpet and cornet playing, Ollie Mulkeen is a skilled performer who will always get bookings. Quite how long some audiences will stay attentive to his instrumental skills is difficult to judge though, and while he has a decent voice and is very adept at easily mixing up what he does on stage, he maybe needs to hone his in-between numbers personality a little more.
Jugglers like Ian Marchant are an acquired taste, and at showcases they often get polite applause, as opposed to a rapturous reception. But, what Marchant has in his favour is some decent patter and an ability to slowly crank up the audience’s interest. That skill doesn’t come just overnight and he’s clearly a seasoned professional, and pretty impressive juggler. Some juggling acts are just a loads of balls, but this had a good variety of props and a nice touch of derring-do.
Once you got over the shock of his almost luminous red suit, possibly fashioned out of an off-cut from an old DFS sofa, singer C J Welsh, emerged as an interesting performer. He really should take himself a little more seriously given that he also lists actor, dancer, instrumentalist (piano, organ, sax, cello and keyboards) and musical director among his talents. Considering that long list, deciding how to present his best side to a showcase audience must have been a real dilemma, if not impossible. In the event, choosing to cover the likes of Dean Martin’s fun song, Mambo Italiano, paid off.
A lot of people will love the zany and sarcastic wit of Jasper (aka Kockov), but plenty of others just won’t get him. This was a hit and miss performance, but the trained actor and performer tried every trick in the book to make his show work. Strutting around in fabulous 1980s leather trousers, and sporting a comical mullet, he relies heavily on volunteers, and that will be either his making or undoing. Given his obvious love of tacky innuendos, he can rule out childrens’ parties, but there are plenty of crowds that, late at night, when the ale is flowing, will be putty in his hands.
More traditional showcase fare, Birmingham-based vocalist Becky Neale came across as a charming, well-presented, competent performer. She only did two numbers, but that was enough to mark her down as a safe, if maybe unexciting act to book. Back in 2009 though, she apparently toured the UK in a one woman jazz musical, also writing original material, so clearly there’s another, altogether more creative side to her than just covering Adele numbers at a showcase.
Starbright Cabaret, described as ‘a new glow-in-the-dark puppet extravaganza’ had most of the elements that audiences, particularly very young ones, love about ultraviolet acts. As is often the case with such shows, the linking between the sections was pretty much non-existent, but when it worked, it worked really well. Like having a huge wolf strutting his stuff to the strains of Maroon 5’s Move Like Jagger - one of the highlights from the whole showcase in my book, and great fun.
After the break came another chance to see Nicole Pearson, one half of aerial act Suspension of Disbelief, perform feats of seemingly impossible physical dexterity.
Then it was time for comedy magician Ricochet to take to the stage, Ian Bagshaw being the man behind the stage name. He’s obviously a competent magician, but when it comes to comedy he’s quite a few cards short of a full deck, at least judging by this rather lacklustre performance.
As hard as he tried, and he did try very hard, all-round entertainer Mike Gibbons couldn’t buy a laugh. Lame, dated material certainly didn’t help his cause, and anyone doing an impression of Frank Spencer (Michael Crawford), from 1970s sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Them, in 2012, really does deserve to have a cat do something unpleasant in his beret. If anything the impressions got worse after that, and it was a blessing, for both Gibbons you suspect, and certainly the audience when his time was up.
All kids love a pirate - the Johnny Depp variety that is, not the ones from Somalia. And, the very grandly named, Spectacular Adventure & Illusion of The High Seas, is bound to go down great with youngsters. The brainchild of creator and illusionist Eloise Bradbury, the fast-paced act features sword fights, costume changes and fire breathing, so really, what’s not to like? Beneath all the effects, in truth, the illusions are nothing new, but it’s a nice, unusual action-packed take on traditional illusion skills.
Given his laid-back body language early on, singer Steve Michaels, didn’t look that excited to be appearing on the Beverley Parks’ stage. But, as he grew into his set and warmed to the audience, he got into his vocal stride, covering Lionel Richie’s Stuck On You, in fine style, before being clearly very much in his vocal comfort zone during some classic Drifters material. An effortless performance then, from an assured, experienced vocalist.
Even if it didn’t quite make the grade, Lisa Goes GaGa had to be applauded for the effort she and her team of four dancers put into their visually interesting and energetic showcase appearance. With a livelier (ie, non-trade) audience and in a more intimate venue, there’s every chance this act could go down quite well, though the choreography needs tightening up, and Lisa (Winwood) needs to strengthen her vocals. To be fair though, a misfiring microphone didn’t help her cause. Not the best Gaga tribute I’ve seen, but certainly not the worse.
It’s always good to finish a showcase session with a decent band, and Bristol-based, three-piece rock outfit, Silver Train, is exactly that, covering Queen, Madness and Dexys Midnight Runners tracks, before ending on a high with a great cover of Billy Idol’s White Wedding.
Although there were no completely stand-out acts, you couldn’t help but be impressed by the physical beauty of Suspension of Disbelief, the close-to-the-mark cheekiness of Jasper (aka Kockov), and indeed the bravery of CJ Welsh, for wearing that suit.