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Showcall Showcase II – Wednesday, Afternoon Session review at Park Hall Charnock Richard

We were pleased to welcome magician Jack Bryce, who in turn was pleased to welcome one and all into the reception area, with some great close-up magic and friendly bonhomie. On entering the main hall at Showcall it is always a delight to hear a great live band to back the acts, and Mickey Watson and the guys scored heavily again on the Wednesday afternoon session, by opening with a great Paul Carrack number.

Jen and Pop Mania opened proceedings and it was interesting to note that Jen and her four lithe and leggy dancers played the sex card as they gave us songs from the Sugababes and Girls Aloud, but not in an OTT way. I’m told that an emerging problem for those who book family holiday centres, is the appearance of acts who are just a bit too sexually explicit in front of the kids. Of course, we all know that they many of them are simply copying what they have seen on pop videos, but one booker told me that he had been instructed to be mindful of this when arranging visiting cabaret. Jen and Pop Mania played it just right and their appeal to the holiday centre market is obvious. A polished opening spot from a pretty smart act.

Woodstock Generation made a compelling case for Showcall bookers to do business with them. This five-piece, live band, resplendent in sixties costumes, evoked memories of the Mamas and the Papas and the Beach Boys, and should score heavily in the band nostalgia market.

Sartorially elegant singer Scott Dee is an Engelbert Humperdinck tribute artist who is quite a good soundalike and, boy, does he look the part. Inexplicably, what appeared to be a man in drag emerged, halfway through the set, in order to sponge the perspiring Engelbert down. I suppose this proves that the approach is fun and tongue in cheek.

Sky TV presenter Raychel Harvey-Jones arrived to remind us of her cabaret roots, and to say that she made a favourable impression would be severely understating matters. I first spotted this remarkable showgirl-type artist at a showcase in Devon some years ago and have not seen her since, but a fantastic face, a truly great voice and the kind of stagecraft skills which sadly seem to be dying out, all combine to produce a sublime showcase spot which came perilously close to cabaret perfection. Harvey-Jones is simply jaw-droppingly awesome and I would imagine is a sensation in front of a live audience, as opposed to a trade audience.

Following this lady was no mean task, but it turned out that Pete Carson, also a singer and entertainer, drew the short straw. However, it soon emerged that Carson is himself a considerable talent and, despite what looked like an attack of the jitters, Carson revealed his great voice with a version of Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, and some nice stagecraft touches of his own, in a superbly delivered spot which was loaded with sheer class.

Enter an experienced looking singer by the name of Sharron Knight and her three lovely daughters. This brand new act is called Knight N Gals and mum is the proud owner of a terrific voice, while her very pretty daughters seem to make a minimal vocal contribution as most of the backing vocals were pre-recorded on to the backing track. Additionally, at the risk of sounding prudish, I should add that such lovely and very young looking girls wearing outfits which were deliberatly designed to show their underwear, really is changing the slant of a cabaret act somewhat.

The incongruously named Sharon-Marie is in fact a soulful and tuneful singer from London, who joined forces with Mickey Watson and the band to give us a belting version of Mustang Sally. The singing voice is as good as anything operating in this field, but there is genuine stage presence and a huge talent to exploit here and, despite the rather odd stagename, Sharon-Marie just has to be one of the finds of the showcase season.

It should se stated that glamorous vocalist and entertainer Lee Ann James looked absolutely terrified, but, having got that out that the way, what we saw and heard here were sincerely performed classic songs like You’re My World, which were superbly delivered. This is My Life, sang James to conclude her short Showcall odyssey. After seeing this performance, I believe that showbusiness is her future.

Yet another female act followed in the shape of Unique 88. Here we have a superbly crafted fusion of comedy and song from two ladies of the voluptuous variety. Complete with feather boas and cheeky gags, this act will score heavily in gay venues and certain, less traditional areas of the cruise market. In short, a superbly funny and vocally gifted act who were a huge hit on the day.

Next came three very pretty and very young looking girls, who are collectively known as Indigo. This superbly presented vocal and dance attraction gave an object lesson in how to dress for the stage, in a youthful yet glamorous fashion. Songs from Stevie Wonder and Toni Braxton revealed varying degrees of vocal ability, but the real strength here is in the presentation and choreography.

I’m not sure exactly what constitutes a successful Christina Aguilera tribute act, but I would imagine that an unruly mop of blonde hair and an expressive voice would be a start. That is just what we found in the shape of Kimberley Dayle, who has both these in abundance. However, there was something slightly uncomfortable about the way in which the framework of the overall impression was delivered, which bothered me a little.

Then came a rather magical Showcall moment when agent Mal Ford joined Tufty and the band in a spirited rendition of I Wanna Be Like You, from Jungle Book.

The afternoon session came to a brilliant close with an appearance from eight-piece band Johnny 2 Bad. This is an outstanding UB40 tribute, complete with a belting brass and percussion section. Showcall sound engineer Lee Beards really earned his money with this particular mix, and as for the band themselves, this was superb stuff with hits like Kingston Town and Ivory Madonna amongst the hits trotted out by one of the best tribute bands I have ever come across. Johnny

2 Bad’s saxophone player JJ turned out to be a former member of the aforementioned Mal Ford’s band, which led to a joyful reunion during an encore, in which Ford got in on the act. Great fun and a nice way to end a great session.

EXPERT CHOICE

Greg Allen of Showstars Entertainment chose Johnny 2 Bad and Indigo

Mark Ritchie

Production Information

Park Hall, Charnock Richard, February 14

Website
www.showcall.co.uk

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