Arriving in the nick of time after a massive motorway snarl-up is not the ideal way to kick-off showcase coverage duties, but compere Gary T Davies settled ruffled feathers and welcomed one and all in his highly accomplished style. Davies is an industry professional with an impressive CV and he went on to prove an inspired choice as compere over the three sessions of this well-established event.
Attractively presented singer MJ Morgan is a performer who has worked extensively entertaining UK holiday-makers and a matey line in chat is heavily featured in her mode of crowd approach. It was never specified what the initials stood for, but I would imagine that Miss Morgan would be comfortable presenting, acting as commere, or possibly even running her own cabaret room.
Bizarre We Are is the name of a boy and girl act showing us the type of quick-change costume capers, which go so well in many gay venues. The show needs gluing together with some live stand-up, but there is work out there for acts like this one.
Rock chic-style singer Kerry Leigh presents her one woman rock covers show, known as the Black Magic Woman Show. In her Gothic frock and boots, this artist sings along to some top quality backing Tracks. Despite the quality of the tracks, surely the effect would be more magical if she were fronting a band.
I was once asked by The Stage to compile a list of unsung UK comedy heroes. The top of the list spot was occupied by Mike Lancaster and warming up a pretty lukewarm showcase crowd in admirable style, this cheeky and ultra-confident master of stand-up comedy showed yet again at this showcase that his is a very special comedy talent. Lancaster is surely one of the greats. I have seen him charm the grannies in end of the pier shows and hit inebriated late night crowds hard at his more acerbic and uncompromising.
Suited and booted singer Billy Myers is the type of traditional balladeer, who gives the vocals full throttle in the style of Joe Longthorne. Probably most comfortable in front of more mature cabaret fans, Myers has a great voice and the type of Scouse charm which has probably served him well for many years.
Bringing the first half to a close was a tribute style attraction, which goes by the lengthy name The Sounds of The Four Tops and Legends of Soul. There are many examples of this type of act, but these guys have the pizzazz and the dance moves to justify inclusion near the top of the tribute tree.
Showgirl-style entertainer Jodie Kate opened up the second half of the first evening show. This immaculately turned out and bubbly blonde soon proved to be armed with charm and stagecraft skills galore. The line in chat will inspire many blonde stereotypical comments from many but, in my view, this is part of the very considerable charm of Jodie Kate.
Singers Sophie Causebrook and Benjamin Gillan are known together as Viva. Here we have a duo which combines light opera and musical theatre offerings with matey chat. The present market-leading cruise ship headline act in this field is an act called La Musica. However Causebrook and Gillan, who gave us O Mia Babbino Caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and the Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha respectively, look and sound as though they could do very well too, judging by this impressive showcase outing.
A smart male duo by the name of Timeless came next. These boys have an abundance of humour, warmth and wit to match their individual vocal ability. Experienced looking campaigners, these boys possess enough broad appeal to work in many areas of the entertainment industry. Here we heard an oddly engaging, orchestral version of the Rainbow hit from the 1970s, Since You’ve Been Gone. However, I would hope that, on mature reflection, the boys from Timeless may acknowledge that performing Bring Him Home from Les Miserable as a duet constituted a collective error of judgement.
Magic and illusion acts are always strongly featured at the Paul Bridson showcase and in charge of conjuring and trickery on the first night were a male and female act called Spell Bound. All singing, all dancing magic and illusion acts like this one are said to be the future of speciality acts in the few better class cabaret venues that still operate, on dry land at least. Comic contact with the audience, a variation of the world’s fastest striptease illusion, some great comedy patter and a demonstration of the famous Chinese rings were just a few of the featured bits within a well thought out and superbly executed set.
Penultimate act on the first evening was singer Geoff Lloyd, who was performing his Rod Stewart tribute set. A dapper picture of sartorial elegance, Lloyd’s stab at Rod opened with a version of one of Rod’s raunchiest tunes, Hot-Legs. One of the hardest tribute vocal impressions certainly, but Lloyd gave it his all and could do even more with his tribute show, if he would only stay in character throughout the between the songs chat.
Closing the first night out was a genre tribute show called the Ladies of the 80s. Having never seen X Factor, I was unaware of the inclusion of these three ladies in last year’s finals show. Their name indicates anything but what they actually are, which is ostensibly a soul and motown harmony show. Many audiences will surely recognise them from their time under the TV talent show spotlight, but I’m afraid these Ladies of the 80s have lots to learn before they even begin to match the many superior acts which exist within this field.