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TDN Management Winter Showcase

Published Wednesday 23 January 2013 at 13:28 by Mike Martin

A truly epic effort from Tara Nix who pushed the boat out in style to present a showcase which must squeeze the boundaries for stamina requirements for audience and performers. Almost six hours of non-stop entertainment with a very brief break; an extravaganza in which virtually every facet of show business was aired. Plenty of extra touches too, putting a stamp upon the proceedings with a complementary drinks reception, snacks, goody bags and some tasteful keyboard tinkling from Simon William Page. The entrance way was dressed with myriad colourful characters such as a spaceman, a noble knight, showgirls and an impressive Simon Cowell lookalike, all of it contributing to a warm and glitzy welcome. Television cameras are present to record proceedings for transmission on the Sky Holiday and Cruise Channel sometime in the spring.

Tara Nix herself initially takes to the stage to thank everyone for attending, as well as showing appreciation for her hardworking team. She then hands the microphone over to the first compere of the evening, Christopher Danes, who does a competent job, with little preamble.

To open the show comes a refreshingly different style of folk/rock band, Wight Hot Pipes; a quintet of funky, gothic Scots with kilts, tin whistle and bagpipes, beefed up by a more standard guitar, bass and drums backing. Great image, especially from the female singer in her leggings, suspenders and Regency jacket. They are eye-catching and novel, giving some edge to their Celtic flavour, but perhaps need more attack to really connect.

Violinist Kate also has a striking image. Young, pretty and obviously classy, she has poise and perfect intonation, proving what a fine player she is as she effortlessly works her way through a string of familiar tunes, including the Bond theme. A shame that some of it gets a bit lost in the heavy backing tracks. Everything is played faultlessly, but she is most at home with the classical genre. She is potentially sensational but does need to develop her presentation.

Singer Lisa Makk is a high energy performer, moving well and connecting with her audience from the moment she takes the floor. Her strong charisma is complemented by a strong, soulful voice, belting out hits such as One Night Only and getting the crowd going with Don’t Stop Believing.

Jaden Cornelious is a trained singer of some distinction. He is exceptional in the classical field and wouldn’t be out of place in serious opera. The soaring Italian vocals are stunning, but he is dressed in jeans and a jumper. Is this some kind of statement? However, he is young with tattoos and facial studs, and does possess a certain charm and undoubted ability.

Compering duties were from this point shared by a hulking Keith Lemon tribute performer who is maybe almost twice the size of the real article. He rambles and spouts the occasional nonsensical obscenity but the audience soon loses interest. It is hard to argue with the success of the real Lemon, although I’m not a fan, but here we have a clearly sub-standard impression of him.

Dirty Dancing is a musical show, all-singing, all-dancing, as three girls and three boys make their way through a series a of lively, happy, well choreographed routines. This is highly watchable entertainment, bringing extra zest to popular numbers such as Time of My Life and Twist and Shout.

Time then for a female classical singer, Gemma Edwards, who shows her earlier male counterpart how presentation and image can really enhance a performance. She looks stunning, dressed tastefully and with a lovely smile which spells instant audience connection. She has a first class trained voice, skilfully adapting it to avoid the vocal traps which classical vocalists often fall into when attempting to perform popular material. Consequently, she gives a strong yet sensitive rendition of the old standard Nearness of You, as well as opera and the evergreen favourite Time to Say Goodbye.

Jason Allen works the crowd admirably with his Michael Buble tribute. A reasonable voice, not quite Buble but good enough. His spirited attempts at numbers like Home and Just Haven’t Met You Yet are certainly well received.

A character introduced as Shotgun seems somewhat out of place. A scrap of t-shirt, seemingly sprayed on to showcase his rippling torso and panoramic tattoos appears to be his strongest asset. A comedian, apparently, he has some very dodgy material which may appeal to the lowest common denominator. There were a few nervous laughs, as is usually the case with this sort of thing, but discomfort, especially among the women sitting at my table, is more the order of the day. Not so much a professional funny man, but more like a bloke in the pub telling crude stories, and not very well.

Jazz singer Helena Mace obviously relishes her chosen style. Working her way through a string of jazz songs, all performed with passion and feeling, she finishes with a powerful version of Wild Horses which she totally immerses herself in.

Take On Take That are a tribute to Gary Barlow’s phenomenally successful lads, but through no fault of their own, some horrendous sound problems ruin their entrance. However, they rally well, and begin again, soon turning their shaky start into forgotten history as they danced and sang their way through the Take That song book. Tight choreography, plenty of energy and safe material well presented - such elements cannot fail in the right commercial situation.

Sound problems are an ever present gremlin during many points of the evening. Likewise the lighting, with several acts often finding themselves working in virtual darkness. Very sloppy, and a great pity when so much trouble has been taken with other aspects of the event.

Following the interval, a long set was granted to Kitty, who is accompanied by two male dancers. She is raunchy and loud, with lots of thrusting, pained facial expressions, pouting and crotch grabbing. It is quite a relief when Kitty actually smiles when she dons a white fur jacket to hop around the room amid the tables. This was quite a highlight as she came into her own and really got the room going with an Annie Lennox song, one of her own called Remix and Edge of Glory. A strong performer very much of today.

Nice to see a touch of traditional glamour from Vegas style showgirls Flaming Feathers, with their flashing smiles, feather boas and head dresses. The Can Can is always a winner.

Star of the night, for me, as he has been in other shows I have seen him in, is Drew Cameron. Excellent impressions, inventively presented; Cameron is a terrific, natural, warm performer who proves that ‘old school’ still has a place in the modern world of hard-nosed cynical entertainment. Bang up to date too, with hilarious routines such as Alan Carr performing Take That.

‘Professional opportunist’ James Brown, who had earlier impressed me with clever card trickery around the tables, now had his own spot. A fault with his headset radio mic puts him at a disadvantage because his act needs to be hands-free, but he shows admirable professionalism as he rises to the occasion and soldiers on with great success. Using volunteers, he demonstrates graceful dexterity as a lightning fast pickpocket, manipulating items from their pockets and removing ties and watches in the blink of an eye.

Singer Grant James is a competent singer who runs through standard fare such as Mac the Knife and Spider Man.

Hypnotist David Days, another advocate of the t-shirt and jeans brigade, begins his act with seven pre-primed volunteers already on stage. Predictable mayhem is then created as he coerces them into various insane tasks such as turning one into a dandruff inspector and another into a gurner. Not exactly original but it entertains.

Next came Robbie as an Irish Robbie Williams, which is quite novel in itself. He spends his entire act rushing around the room, standing on tables and forcing individuals to sing with him, but he does justice to songs such as Rock DJ and Real Love.

By this time, lack of endurance appears to have got the better of many and the room is emptying somewhat, but the Half Blues Brothers rise gamely to the occasion with their tribute to the Dan Ackroyd film. This pair have the look and the moves and they soon have the resilient remainder up dancing to rocking favourites such as Sweet Home Chicago.

A complete contrast now from Terri Terri. A shapely, scantily clad lady gyrating with a huge python and blowing fire is guaranteed to attract attention and she quickly succeeds in bringing rapt silence to the room. She is mesmerising and her appearance is perfectly timed.

It was up to five-piece function band Funkty Dumpty to get everyone back on their feet. The two girls out front present themselves with gusto, singing heartily and with enough drive and excessive volume to keep the dance floor going with hits like Duffy’s Mercy.

Alicia Karr is essentially a Pink tribute performer, looking the part from her hairstyle to her general striking image and finishes up performing in her underwear (Lady Ga Ga and co have a lot to answer for). Karr has a big voice which features refreshing clarity, and she showed a more sensitive and versatile side of her ability by including songs like Who Do You Think You Are? and It’s Raining Men.

Like a scene from Cleopatra, the final act featured a colourfully dressed lady being carried onto the stage by two forlorn looking male dancers, and so we had All About Ga Ga and the Fame Monsters, a Lady Ga Ga tribute. Fans would be satisfied, I am sure, as this lady does Ga Ga very well, with plenty of open legged thrusting and straight faced pouting on top of the vocal dexterity. What would Gracie Fields make of it all, I wonder?

With the small hours of the morning approaching, this marathon session finally drew to a close and I do not think anyone could complain that they had been short changed. Even now, with the show over, the compere brought the two dancers from Kitty’s act on stage to continue bopping away.

Variety meets longevity. What a night.

Production information

Sandbanks Hotel, Dorset, January 21

Producer:
Tara Nix
Cast:
Simon William Page, Christopher Danes, Wight Hot Pipes, Kate, Lisa Makk, Jaden Cornelious, Keith Lemon Tribute, Dirty Dancing, Gemma Edwards, Jason Allen, Shotgun, Helena Mace, Take On Take That, Kitty, Flaming Feathers, Drew Cameron, James Brown, Grant James, David Days, Robbie, The Half Blues Brothers, Terri Terri, Funkty Dumpty, Alicia Karr, All About Ga Ga and the Fame Monsters

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15
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