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JMA Showcase 2005 review at Devon Cliffs Holiday Park Exmouth Devon

Choosing a busy holiday centre that had not yet closed for the season for this showcase event ensured that a sizeable and genuine holiday centre audience augmented the large number of bookers who gathered to check out the talent on offer for prospective 2006 season dates.

This ploy to bring in the punters has been used before, with varying results. On the positive side, the holiday centre bookers get to see the acts in their natural working environment, while on the other hand, bookers often struggle to pick out the finer points of individual performances due to excessive noise, the distraction of children wandering around and the general whizzing of the wheels of commerce.

In the event it was genial compere Steve Walls who got the ball rolling. His opening version of Just a Gigolo, followed by expressive warm up chat, set the tone nicely.

Established holiday centre singer Ellay performed her Miss Sixties tribute to a series of swinging females who made their name in the mini-skirt era. This well dressed artist has a good idea of a niche tribute performance, which should win her many new friends.

Smart singing livewire Bruce Parker was soon out trawling the audience with a radio mic in hand, as he opened in singalong mood with The Drifters crowd-pleaser Saturday Night at the Movies. Parker was at his touchy feely best with his audience in what was an outstanding exercise in crowd control. A happy-clappy performance here from an outstandingly charismatic artist, in which he showed a welcome return to his solo act.

I really enjoyed zany juggler and comedian Nathan Zorchak. This American entertainer has evidently developed a flair for the ridiculous which has been successfully combined with genuine technical ability and the gift of pace, which was certainly called into use on this particular evening. Zorchak performed an inspired sight gag with a pair of ping-pong balls and quite alarmingly, but thankfully successfully, actually juggled with a live chain saw.

At last an Elvis impersonator who does not whiff of phoney-baloney. Steve Ballard is a young Londoner who had something plausible and convincing about him. The vocal impression was, at times, a bit frenetic but was none the worse for that. The market is reaching saturation point, with Elvises of all shapes, ages and sizes, but this particular King should find his niche.

I have seen and enjoyed comedy impressionist Drew Cameron before. This Brighton-based ideas man always seems to come up with material that provides a breath of fresh air. The highlights on this viewing included sketches involving Ozzy Osborne singing the songs of Chubby Checker and England Football coach Sven Goran Eriksson singing The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go. Although I would hazard a guess that Cameron has been through the comedy mill, he still has the kind of soft-sell approach that will endear him to many audiences.

Closing the first half were live Scottish five piece band Mersey Mania. This Dundee-based attraction bear the indelible stamp of seasoned pros who know their business and deliver the goods. Presenting a set from the sixties era, this exceptionally strong and entirely live attraction have already made considerable inroads into the nostaligia market. On this impressive showing, it’s not hard to see why.

Damien Matthews is a bit of a one-off. He was the winner of the last talent show I produced during my 13 years in the talent show business, therefore I know his act well. Young Matthews is vocally superb, as was demonstrated during a version of the Russell Watson arrangement of You Raise Me Up. Self-confidence is something Matthews has in abundance and very few pieces of the jigsaw are left to complete before this young man is ready to ascend towards stardom – given the breaks and the right attitude of course.

Enter all-singing and all-dancing glamour-puss troupe Unleashed, comprising four well-dressed girls. Some well-rehearsed dance routines here certainly but, as the girls sang mainly in unison, the vocal mix was a little grating on the ear at times. However, military and corporate bookers may well find a use for an act as well-presented as this one.

From four ladies who sell the sex card, we met male hunky harmonisers The Aces. This sharp-dressed American quartet gave us smooth songs from the Tamla Motown era. A tired late audience certainly responded in kind to their efforts at late night musical bonhomie. After a well sung version of The Temptations hit My Girl, it was time to party on down by Going Loco Down In Acapulco, and why not.

It is a general rule of thumb in a showcase situation that if a rotund man walks on stage brandishing a red hanky and wearing an implausible wig, then a Meatloaf Tribute is about to kick in. Andy Pryke hails from Luton and just as I had reached the conclusion that he was less than convincing, he took the words right out of my mouth. The uncertain gait suggested gout, the overall look suggested a Max Wall impression and the vocal impression suggested Pryke should think again. Enough said.

At ten minutes to midnight, on a showcase evening when many of the acts on the bill had frankly out stayed their welcome, it was time to welcome blonde rock-chic Lisa Marie. Despite apparently being named after Presley’s daughter, this raunchy mover pitched her talents at the audience with well-sung versions of Nutbush City Limits and Shania Twain’s Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under. The obvious clash of styles will have made Lisa Marie hard to fathom for some bookers though.

Bringing the whole evening to a satisfying and enjoyable conclusion were sixties favourites Vanity Fair, who are still Hitching a Ride and making a very nice living in the nostalgia market.

In a market where many so-called ex-sixties bands don’t consist of even one original member, Vanity Fare can claim a tad more authenticity than most and their enduring popularity has to be largely down to the enthusiasm and musicianship, which is there for all to hear and enjoy, even in 2005.

A long evening, due in the main to the peripheral requirements of the venue and some of the Haven holiday customers who were apparently under the impression that this was some kind of X-Factor style talent competition.

However on the business front this must have been a satisfying event for Mills and his efficient team, given the general high standard of the cabaret and the hard work of all involved.

Production Information

Devon Cliffs Holiday Park, Exmouth, Devon, Producer: John Mills

October 17

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