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John Howe Presentations Showcase 2013 (day two, afternoon session) review at Riverside Caravan Centre Bognor Regis

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Afternoon showcase sessions are notoriously tricky affairs to get right – it is difficult to generate enough interest within the industry to make sure there is a decent sized audience to greet the acts, many of whom appear to be out of their comfort zones when performing during daylight hours.

Compere for the session, Garry Dorsey, clearly has the experience not to be rattled by the rather sparse crowd that greeted his initial welcome, but was evidently happy to pass the responsibility to get the show up and running over to vocal instrumental duo, Avenue 39 (Lee Grant and Dave Garner). Set up on a separate side stage, they rattled through some old favourites with expressions that said this appearance was a walk in the park for such old hands. One pleasant surprise was their final T-Rex number as, until then, I didn’t have them down as fans of that kind of music.

Being compere for the day gives any artist the chance to showcase their own all-round talents when it’s time for their spot, and with 29 years in the business, Dorsey wasn’t going to miss the chance to have a go at just about everything. Spreading your skills net too wide can be a mistake though and, while it was impossible to fault his efforts at some passable comedy plus covering big numbers such as Bring Him Home (from Les Miserables) followed by the emotive Impossible Dream, the performance leaves you feeling that he hasn’t totally excelled at any one thing. He is a very sure-footed artist though.

No prizes for guessing speciality act, Stevie Pink’s favourite colour. His act is a riot of said colour – and that’s just his suit – while he performs his illusions with a style and panache that ensures he commands your attention. One long routine, featuring a ghostly handkerchief with a manic mind of its own, did get a little tiresome, but he redeemed himself, aided by the de rigueur glamorous assistant, as like some Liberace of levitation, he pulls off a very intriguing, gravity-defying illusion.

As competent a singer as she is, Bianca needs to work out a more clearly defined identity. As it is, she never convinces that she has that bookable quality above the many other female singers on the circuit. There is an unusual twang to her voice that some might not warm to, but, given that she performs covers ranging from Queen to Leona Lewis, I’m sure there are plenty of bookers looking for exactly that kind of versatility.

When male vocalist Ricky Fontayne first appeared, I thought he had maybe mixed up the Riverside with the Lakeside, being dressed a little like a darts player. But, there’s evidently a fine line between the attire favoured by players of that sport and rock’n’rollers, and, once he launched into some covers of old classics, it was clear what he was all about. His Buddy Holly medley was a nice act in itself and I’m sure his full live performances are well-received by a wide range of retro music fans.

At one point during the final spot of the afternoon, circus speciality act Peter Lambert was in danger of landing in someone’s basket of scampi. He clearly relishes pushing his balancing, unicycling and juggling skills to the limit, and there is both a sense of danger and excitement about his act that enthrals. Skills like his take years to perfect and it is always a privilege to see a performer like Lambert up close – just don’t sit in the first few rows.

A short, but still entertaining afternoon session, it is certainly an experience to watch Pink in OTT showbusiness mode and see Lambert literally peddling his madcap wares on stage. The speciality acts stole the show – and you don’t say that very often.

Read about the evening session of this showcase

Production Information

Riverside Caravan Centre, Bognor Regis, November 5

Cast
Garry Dorsey, Avenue 39, Stevie Pink, Bianca, Ricky Fontayne, Peter Lambert

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