Showing posts sorted by relevance for query louise dearman. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query louise dearman. Sort by date Show all posts

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Louise Dearman: This is Me, The Other Palace | Review


Louise Dearman: This is Me (Concert) 
The Other Palace 
Reviewed on Saturday 19th May 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★

Louise Dearman is West End royalty so it's only fitting that her first solo concert in four years took place on the day of the royal wedding. The question is: who's the bigger queen? Well Meghan may actually be royalty now but Louise's killer voice, perfect humour and all round brilliant stage presence certainly makes her a Queen in my eyes.

Last night's concert at The Other Palace felt like a family coming together to celebrate Louise. I must admit I'd never seen Ms Dearman in a solo concert before but looking around at the smiling faces and hearing the instant applause made it clear that her loyal supporters and friends were all there to revel in the gloriousness of her performance. There was no hesitation in cheering, joining in to clap or laughing out loud; the audience were so giving and I can only imagine how great that must feel as a performer. 

Louise's performance was faultless. Her natural wit and charm had me smiling from ear to ear and just feeling joyous. The concert featured a number of songs from new album For You, For Me which includes songs Louise has fallen in love with over the years and songs fans have asked her to sing. Particular stand out's of the night were Easy as Life which was effortlessly beautiful and Time Heals Everything which not only sounded glorious but rekindled my love for Mack and Mabel. Other standouts were the haunting, Uninvited, heartfelt She Used to Be Mine and the wonderful Donna Summer medley.

The band were outstanding as were Louise's backup singers/duet partners. Ashley Samuels sounded especially beautiful durning his duet of City of Stars. The delight on everyone's faces was evident which made the killer vocals even more impressive.


Obviously Louise's powerhouse belt mixed with smooth vocals are outstanding but it's her charisma which makes a night like this so special. From the get go she commands the stage and is genuinely funny. I don't think I've ever laughed so much at a concert and am truly honoured to have been a part of the night. Louise's quick wit goes a mile a minute and she fills every moment of no singing with a joke, anecdote or hilarious facial expression which keeps the show flowing and the audience invested through the concerts entirety. Particularly hilarious was when Louise restarted her song after singing it in a MirandaSings style (not that it sounded bad to me at all!), a self-confessed lyric forgetter, Louise is professional at carrying on and makes light of any mistakes and she certainly didn't forget as many lyrics as this iconic performance of June is Busting Out All Over. 

Everyone who was a part of this concert was outstanding and it was a truly mesmerising night. Louise Dearman is a spellbinding performer and I can only hope it's not another four years until we get to experience this joy again. Louise told the audience to never be afraid of asking her to sing songs so I'd like to put my request in that she performs the entire phone book... alternatively a gender-switched version of Moving Too Fast from The Last 5 Years.

Louise's album For You, For Me is available now.

Friday, 31 August 2018

There is Nothing Like a Dame, Cadogan Hall | Review


There is Nothing Like a Dame (Concert) 
Cadogan Hall
Reviewed on Thursday 30th August 2018 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★

Combine four of the most talented female performers to have ever graced the West End stages and a celebration of 100 years of Women in musical theatre and you have a stellar debut show from Lambert Jackson.

West End superstars Rachel Tucker, Louise Dearman, Ria Jones and Alexia Khadime joined forces to showcase some of the most iconic female roles of the last 100 years and highlight the positive changes that are happening for women in the industry. Every song seemed to top the last and it was a truly uplifting night at Cadogan Hall.

The concert opened with all four ladies floating onto the stage accompanied by rapturous applause to perform Anything Goes which set the benchmark for the night extremely high and began our journey through a number of beautiful solo's, duets, trios and quartets.


The ladies gave all round stellar performances, with highlights including a great medley of Rodgers and Hammerstein songs; Rachel Tucker sung a hilariously drawly version of I Can't Say No, Alexia Khadime a playful I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Outa My Hair, Ria Jones a graceful Shall We Dance and Louise Dearman a pin-drop perfect, You'll Never Walk Alone.

Since seeing Louise Dearman in her solo concert earlier this year, I have been continually surprised by her versatility as a performer and she once again showcased her ability to transform both her vocals and mannerisms to fit any style. Louise is truly a musical theatre chameleon; her performance of I Dreamed a Dream was certainly a stand out.

Other highlights included Ria Jones' With One Look from Sunset Boulevard which brought the audience to their feet, Alexia Khadime's heartfelt, Home from The Wiz and a lovely rendition of In His Eyes from Jekyll and Hyde from Rachel Tucker and Louise Dearman. Mention must also go to the wonderful duet from the three former Elphaba's, Louise Dearman, Alexia Khadime and Rachel Tucker who put a fresh spin on The Wizard and I.


The audience were also treated to a peek at the future of the West End with a great and powerful performance of Don't Rain on my Parade from Daisy Greenwood who won a competition to perform at the concert. Aged only 17, she commanded the stage and is sure to be seen again among the great performers.

It must also be pointed out how fantastic all four ladies looked, donning two glamourous gowns each and embodying the superstar vibes. Also joyous to watch, was the way all the women supported one another and watched each other as if in awe. Women supporting women is just as important now than it's ever been and it's wonderful to see women who could so easily see each other as competition, admire each other and celebrate talent. 

If the next 100 years of musical theatre is filled with performances like the ones this night provided then it will be truly wonderful!

Photo credit: Danny Kaan

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Something Wonderful, Royal Festival Hall | Review


Something Wonderful
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
Reviewed on Thursday 15th September 2016 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★

Last night the Royal Festival Hall played host to a wonderful exploration and celebration of the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein in a fabulous one of concert featuring some of the West Ends best performers. Emma Kingston, Louise Dearman, Michael Xavier and Ryan O'Gorman fabulously performed songs from one of the best musical theatre partnerships of all time, treating us to some of their well known songs as well as some hidden gems.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Mimma (Concert), Cadogan Hall | Review


Mimma (Concert)
Cadogan Hall
Reviewed on Monday 28th February by Holly Inch
★★★★★

Ron Siemiginowski and Giles Watson’s Mimma tells the story of two women who form an unlikely friendship in the midst of World War 2: Sarah, an aspiring jazz singer, and Mimma, a young Italian girl sent to live with her uncle in London’s Soho. Through the growing fear in London, her brother’s arrest, and the tension between Italy and England, Mimma’s danger grows evermore, and she could lose everything- apart from the only person that she can trust: Sarah.
Mimma’s one night performance was not something to be missed and showcased the best of what theatre has to offer. The musical concert took place at Cadogan Hall and included a cast of seventeen alongside the BBC Concert Orchestra. The stage didn’t include much set, however the cast brought the story to life with the props, tables, and chairs that they had (I must note, there were also projections on the back wall that helped differentiate from scene to scene). All of the cast members were fitted with beautiful 1940’s outfits that only added to the world of Mimma and looked amazing on stage together.

The show’s cast were phenomenal. Led by Sir David Suchet as Alredo Frassati, Celinde Schoenmaker as Mimma, and Louise Dearman as Sarah, all of whom brought Mimma’s story to life through the score and the phenomenal 40s style choreography, brilliantly choreographed Chris Whittaker. Celinde Schoenmaker was outstanding as Mimma, bringing her powerful soprano voice into the. Her portrayal of the hardships that Mimma goes through was unparalleled, her acting beautifully natural, and her higher register something to marvel. As her on stage friend, Louise Dearman was a standout role. Dearman brought such range to the role of Sarah that you found it hard to believe that she hadn’t gone through the experiences that she portrayed on stage. Aside from that, her singing was utterly beautiful and captivating to listen, combining jazz and opera styles into a wonderful blend that was heavenly to hear. Her performance of 'The Folds of Time' (a beautifully emotional song about Sarah and her fiancé, who is in the navy) was so sweetly sung and incorporated such truth tied into it.


John Owen-Jones as Lorenzo- though we didn’t see this part as much as some others- was brilliantly played and sung and was exactly what you would expect from the amazing Owen-Jones. A beautiful moment in the show came when Ashley Riches- playing Aldo Marini, Mimma’s brother- and Elena Xanthoudakis- playing Ada Marini, Mimma’s mother- sang together in the song 'Aria Pieta'. The two’s voices blended well together, and they had a beautiful dynamic as mother and son. Riches specifically had an incredible range on him and portrayed the hardships experienced by Aldo in a way that had me almost in tears. Riches and Xanthoudakis joined Schoenmaker in an out-of-this-world group number called 'Aria Piemontese' which left my jaw on the floor. 

Steve Serlin as Jacob Katz was another stand out performance because his comedy timing was impeccable and brought the comedic relief that left the audience with smiles on their faces. The ensemble just made the show. They constantly were acting, singing, dancing, and just all together brought their moments to life. The dancing was to an amazingly high-standard, and their vocals added a wonderful layer to the song.

With a wonderful composition, an absolutely phenomenal cast with insane vocal, Mimma was a fantastic musical and spoke on issues faced during World War 2 in a respectful and truthful light. I only hope that this is the start of a bright future for this musical.

photo credit: Danny Kaan

Friday, 2 July 2021

Wonderful Town, Opera Holland Park | Review


Wonderful Town
Opera Holland Park 
Reviewed on Thursday 1st July 2021 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

As the world returns to a new normal, there aren't many better ways to spend a Thursday evening than enjoying a glorious musical in the beautiful setting of Opera Holland Park. Quick Fantastic have returned to the space to present Wonderful Town, the half-forgotten 30s  musical which brims with exhilarating jazz and witty comedy.

Under Alex Parker's musical direction, Bernstein's score soars around the auditorium and reminds us just how brilliant the older Broadway musicals can be. The comedy on stage is matched perfectly with the music and the whole affair feels as rich and jubilant as can be. The musical  diversity is also a treat to hearr, with an Irish jig, a beatnik scat and some moving ballads, there's really something for everyone.

The book by Jerome Chodorov and Joseph Fields is basically the story who two sisters from Ohio who arrive in the New York with dreams of taking the town by storm. The source material for the show was taken from autobiographical short stories by Ruth, the sister who longed for a writing career and chronicled her and her sisters' lives in The New Yorker. There are a number of little adventures the duo go on whilst finding their careers (and romances) which make for a highly entertaining and all round wholesome story.

Ruth is played with grit and wit by West End superstar, Louise Dearman, who seems almost made for the role of the sassy, vulnerable, bookish author. Of course Louise is vocally effortless and provides some real highlights, but she also shines in the humourous moments which help make the whole production feel so jubilant.



Balancing Dearman out is the equally brilliant Siubhan Harrison as Eileen, the sister who knows how to get what she wants but in the end is unwaveringly committed to her sister. The double act are a dream to watch and have the audience wrapped around their little fingers, especially during their smooth as butter rendition of Ohio.

The male love interests are performed by Ako Mitchell who is vocally divine and very authentic as magazine editor Bob; Roger Dipper who is utterly wonderful and so humourous as the bumbling Walgreens worker Frank Lippencott; and Alex Lodge who is suitably sleazy as newspaper hack Chick Clark.

Billy Nevers is the washed up football player The Wreck, and Emma Harrold is his secret fiancé, Helen. Both do a great job of padding out their characters as well as providing super strong vocals and some light-hearted comedic moments.

The rest of the cast made up of: Jade Albertsen, Robson Broad, Ashley Daniels, Tamsin Dowsett, Gregory Haney, Jas[er Kajd and Natasha Leaver are super sleek throughout whilst bringing the vibes of 30s New York to life. Carrie-Anne Ingrouille's choreography is superb and a joy to watch.

From a conga to an incarceration there's a lot to enjoy and laugh at, and the cast do an outstanding job of making a semi-staged production feel full. Overall it's a wonderful night at Wonderful Town.

Photos by Danny Kaan

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Side Show, Southwark Playhouse | Review


Side Show
Southwark Playhouse
Reviewed on Thursday 27th October 2016 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★

Side Show is an original musical which is unique in more than one way. Firstly because it tells the story of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton and secondly because it flopped not once but twice on Broadway. The original 1997 production ran for a mere 91 performances with the more recent 2014 revival running for only 56, perhaps it was not a Broadway audiences cup of tea or perhaps it did not have the finesse and omph  which this current production does.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Olivia's Top 10 Shows of 2016

Without repeats, I saw 59 different shows this year so compiling this list has been difficult to say the least! This has been a brilliant year for theatre and through this website I really feel that I've become a part of the theatre community. 2016 has seen some brilliant big budget shows as well as smaller fringe ones, many of which have thrilled me. This list is of the shows that stuck with me long after I'd seen them and that I feel are very resonant in our 2016 world. This will probably be a bit of a long post, I have a whole year to fit in after all, so grab yourself a cuppa and some biscuits and enjoy!



This list is in reverse order, cause we all need that extra bit of excitement in our lives.


One of Paul Taylor-Mills' incredible productions of 2016. The music was performed beautifully and the touching and heartbreaking story of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet was told sincerely and gracefully by Laura Pitt-Pulford and Louise Dearman.




Did anyone not like this show? All I heard were incredible reviews and rightly so. An exciting and refreshing revival of a much loved Classic which ticked all the boxes of a hit musical. Charlie Stemp is talent on another level. I'm sure we'll be hearing plenty more good things about the show and cast in 2017!




This was my first visit to The Union Theatre and wow was it a good first. I absolutely adored this show. I was completely unfamiliar with the music and was just blown away by it. The cast were sublime and the story telling was impeccable. I'm sure this would be a huge hit if more people got to see it. 




27 must have been one of the most hyped musicals of 2016 and I could certainly see why when I saw it. It's a musical like I've never seen before, so fresh and different to what's currently on the West End stages. The plot twist at the end had me physically breathless, a stunning piece of artistry.




This was another small show but it definitely packed more than a small punch. It was sweet, pink, sassy and sumptuous. One of those shows which really made you think and reflect on your life. Lauren Samuels gave a standout performance!




I saw this show alone so the minute I stepped out of the theatre I called my friend to fangirl about it like a mad woman. I was completely awestruck by the whole performance. It was moving, funny, relevant and thought-provoking. The use of songs was done smoothly and effectively and it was overall just an A* worthy production.




This was the perfect treat to see just before Christmas. Although the story is slightly dated and everything is a little over the top, it's a fantastic production full of sweetness, heartbreak and love. Scarlett Strallen's performance was absolutely impeccable and nothing short of perfection. With the amount of people I've told to see this, I wouldn't be surprised if it gets a West End transfer in the near future. 




I've grown up with Rent so finally seeing it on stage was a very special experience for me. Each cast member is fully immersed into their roles and the whole production is raw, gritty and believable. Philippa Stefani gives the performance of a superstar and had me in floods of tears. The production will continue to tour next year and I'll certainly be seeing it again so don't be surprised if it features in my top 10 of 2017 too!




The St James theatre was on fire this year! The Last Five Years is another one which I've wanted to see on stage for years. Jason Robert Brown's story is heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. It's always a joy to see Samantha Barks on stage and seeing her shine as Cathy was even more wonderful because of how incredibly she showed off her effortless belt and sincere acting. The wonderful mix of simplistic staging, the stellar duo of Barks and Bailey and Jason's beautiful music, rightfully earn The Last Five Years my number two spot!



1. Dreamgirls: Savoy Theatre

If you haven't heard about Dreamgirls' triumphant return to the West End then you must have been living in a cave. This was the 2nd to last show I saw and I couldn't be happier that I could end the year on such a fantastic note. This has got to be the theatrical spectacle of the year, the sets, costumes, choreography and cast are all exquisite and I cried a bucket load of happy tears, which I never do! Go see Dreamgirls in 2017, I guarantee you'll leave singing it's praises!



So there's my top 10 shows, of course there's other brilliant ones and I'm sure your list varies but this has been a brilliant year for theatre and I can't wait to see what 2017 brings *cough* Hamilton *cough* 

But wait, where's that other show that I've been posting and tweeting about like crazy and have seen 32 times!? I haven't forgotten it, I just wanted to give it a special mention because its such a special show. So my "The Show Which Changed My Life: 2016" award goes to IN THE HEIGHTS at the Kings Cross Theatre! I've done a billion posts on it (just search it on the homepage) so I don't need to write any more soppy words but this show has seriously been my everything this year. I've met incredible people from it, both fans and cast members and I'm so incredibly grateful for that. Unfortunately I won't be at the last show as I'm in Australia (boo hoo, woe is me, right?) but I'm so sad its closing, and I'm sending all my thoughts and positive vibes to the theatre gods that they will bring it back because I will never be ready for the lights to go down on Washington Heights! Thank you In The Heights for being there and helping me and I'm sure many others, through tough times and making us feel at home in the theatre. Even if you had no idea how you were helping, I guarantee you made some tough days just that much easier. No pare sigue sigue!



I hope you had a brilliantly theatrical year too and I'd love to hear your favourites so drop me a comment on here or tweet me @OliviaMitche or @RewriteThisWeb 

Au Revoir 2016! Stay Stagey, 2017!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

On The Town (Prom 57), Royal Albert Hall | Review


Prom 57: On The Town (BBC Proms)
Royal Albert Hall 
Reviewed on Saturday 25th August 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

What better way to celebrate what would have been Bernstein's 100th birthday, than at the Royal Albert Hall with a glorious performance of On The Town?! Written in 1944 with Adolph Green, Jerome Robbins and Betty Comden, this show is a light-hearted look at love which takes place over 24 hours in New York and is accompanied by beautifully woven music.

The plot follows three sailors who are in the Big Apple for one day only. Their time soon becomes commanded by some humourous, strong, powerful women who provide a larger than life experience. Each character is memorable and brilliantly performed by the stellar cast which celebrates some of the best the West End theatre scene has to offer. 

Each cast member came at their roles with vigour and embraced both the humour and more nuanced moments, fantastically. Whilst the humour is repetitive at times, it was very well pulled off, with well timed motifs remaining humourous instead of grating, especially the entrances of Pitkin (Barnaby Rea) whilst his fiancé Claire (Celinde Schoenmaker) and Ozzie (Nadim Naaman) were getting closer and closer.


Nathaniel Hackmann's smooth vocals were especially striking as the lovestruck Gabey, whilst Siena Kelly was perfectly flirty and humourous as Miss Turnstiles, Ivy Smith. Claire Moore was equally witty as drunken singing teacher, Madame Dilly, and earned several laughs from the audience.

Whilst the entire leading cast were extremely strong, it was Come Up To My Place, a back-and-forth duet by Hildy (Louise Dearman) and Chip (Fra Fee) which provided the most memorable scene of the night.

This very simplistic concert, whilst beautifully staged by Martin Duncan, with basic projections and innovative prop usage, really just highlighted how stunning the score of On The Town is. The music has wit and sharpness embedded in it which brings the story to life without a need for dramatic sets and scene changes.


John Wilson brought the vivid score to life, conducting the London Symphony Orchestra with energy and bringing out flawless sounds. The varied musical sections showcased the adaptability and versatility of the orchestra and really evoked feelings of the golden age.

The full-house of the Royal Albert Hall were treated to a truly spectacular performance which you would be a fool to miss on BBC catch up! Full of joy and life, watching On The Town was a joyous experience.

photo credit: Mark Allan

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

West End Live Lounge: Woman, The Other Palace | Review


West End Live Lounge (Concert)
The Other Palace
Reviewed on Friday 20th October 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★½

This is the second Woman themed West End Live Lounge, but this time, the team have graduated from The Other Palace Studio, to the main space as they become bigger and better. Featuring songs from some of the most influential women in music and raising money for Samaritans, West End Live Lounge is really about the heart and soul of everyone involved.

Host for the evening was Samuel J Holmes who wittily engaged the audience and provided innuendo after innuendo and a number of anecdotes about his new home in Southend. The atmosphere remained lighthearted throughout but we were all reminded of the crucial reason for the concert. As always, the proceeds from West End Live Lounge go to charity, this time we were raising funds for Samaritans who do crucial work helping those in dark mental places. The Samaritans answer a call for help every six seconds which is truly incredible and its imperative that we help where we can. Especially in an industry where mental health is often battered, it feels very special and close to everyone's hearts that we can support the charity in this way.

Whilst the evening did flow very well, it would have been nice to hear each performer introduce themselves and their songs a little as at times they felt a little removed from the audience. Perhaps this was due to nerves but I felt that some ice breaking could have helped.

To raise funds and of course provide entertainment, founder of West End Live Lounge, Shaun McCourt pulled together some of the best West End performers to sing their hearts (and larynx's) out.  Highlights were aplenty so I'll just name a few... First up, Jennifer Tierney's performance of All By Myself  which was note perfect and superbly performed. With her hauntingly beautiful rendition of With Woman in the Moon, Brady Isaacs Pearce brought calm to the venue, whilst Shekinah McFarlance showed off her extreme vocal prowess with Lose To Win. 


Blowing the roof off at the end of act two, Emma Lindars put her own spin on the Jessie J classic, Mama Knows Best and wowed the entire audience a second time with Stone Cold by Demi Lovato. Live Lounge regulars Divalution provided their signature riffs, belt and sass with All I Ask and Power, and Matthew Harvey put a new spin on Britney Spear's, Circus, complete with multi-coloured lighting.

Other stand outs included Kayleigh McKnight's rendition of Chandelier, Louise Dearman's take on the Celine classic, Taking Chances. And, after an understated start, Simon Gordon's performance of Shallow was utterly breathtaking and completely memorable. The 10 piece band led my MD Sam Coates did an outstanding job of backing up the performers as well as having their own chances to shine. The full band bring a real warmth to these concerts and its fantastic to, not only hear them playing brilliantly, but also see them looking like they're having a great time.

West End Live Lounge continues to provide a highly entertaining Sunday out, full of treats a surprises. There is always guaranteed to be something for everyone and you should definitely pop along, not only to hear fabulous singing, but also to support highly deserving charities.

photo credit: Nick Brittain (Brittain Photography)

Thursday, 21 February 2019

In Conversation With... Shaun McCourt | West End Live Lounge | Interview

West End Live Lounge is back at The Other Palace on March 10th for a celebration of WOMEN. The stellar line up of performers will sings songs from powerful ladies, all whilst raising money for Samaritans. I spoke to founder, Shaun McCourt about all things West End Live Lounge...



Can you tell us a bit about the creation of West End Live Lounge?
West End Live Lounge started in 2017 as an idea for a series of concerts to raise money for charity and has since grown to where it is today. I wanted to create an event which would allow West End performers the platform to sing material which was not from the world of musical theatre with a live band. There was a gap in the gig/concert circuit for such an event and I simply decided to go for it-and what an exciting journey it has been.


You’ve gone from the Union Theatre to the Other Palace Studio to the main house and each concert is getting bigger and better. What’s the next thing you’d like to achieve with your concerts?
I am always overwhelmed by the support that West End Live Lounge receives. It is great to see so many people enjoying the concerts. Without this support, its reputation would not be where it is now. The show continues to grow and there are certainly exciting plans in place for its future. However, I am going to keep the secrets for now I am afraid. Watch this space!

In terms of what I would like to achieve, my aim is to continue to produce concerts that not only entertain our audiences, but also raise as much money for charity as possible.


What’s your favourite part of putting the Live Lounge concerts together?
Though I may look slightly stressed on the day of a Live Lounge concert, I have to say that I enjoy the whole process of putting it together- from picking the theme, to casting the line-up, liaising with The Other Palace, to the day of the concert itself. However, if I had to pick a favourite moment, it would be the rehearsals and soundcheck on the day of each event. The Live Lounge band are all incredible musicians and our musical director, Sam Coates, is a genius. That moment when we are all set up and I hear the band play for the first time is really special. It is always a reminder of just how much hard work people put into making these events a success. 

West End Live Lounge has become a bit of a family. The central team is made up of Sam Coates (musical director), Will Miney (technical manager) and myself. However, all performers and musicians that have been involved become part of this family. Getting to work alongside so many talented individuals always makes this such a rewarding process.


What can people expect when they come and experience a West End Live Lounge?
People can expect a great night at the theatre. If this doesn't happen, then I am doing something wrong! A West End Live Lounge event promises a fantastic line up of incredible singers and musicians. Each concert has an exciting theme and gives the audience the chance to see their favourite West End performers step out of the world of musical theatre. 


Each concert you raise money for a different charity, how do you choose the charities to support and what do they mean to you?
Choosing the charity for each concert is always a tricky job. There are so many important charities, so rather than continue to raise money for just one, I decided that it was really important to me that each concert raised money for a different cause. For some concerts, the theme and charity often go hand in hand. There have also been times where a major event has happened in the world around the time of the concert and it makes total sense to donate the proceeds to this cause. 


If you could have any performer dead or alive to perform at a Live Lounge, who would you choose and why?
This is a tricky question! I am incredibly grateful to every single performer who has given up their time to be part of a West End Live Lounge event. They each bring an amazing talent and such a great energy to the stage. It is important to me that I continue to introduce new faces to the Live Lounge stage and that each concert offers a diverse and exciting line up.

But if I had to pick one person... 

Well...If I could get Jennifer Hudson along to sing a number, would I be excited? Absolutely!


Can you sum up in 5 words why people should come to the next West End Live Lounge?
Belting for a good cause.


West End Live Lounge tickets go on sale March 25th.

Full cast (subject to availability): Adam Bailey, Christina Bennington, Louise Dearman, Lauren Drew, Simon Gordon, Jennifer Harding, Matthew Harvey, Emma Hatton, Lisa Marie Holmes, Claudia Kariuki, Sejal Keshwala, Emma Lindars, Shekinah Mcfarlane, Kayleigh McKnight, Christina Modestou, Brady Isaacs Pearce, Lauren James Ray, Danielle Steers, Laura Tebbutt, Jennifer Tierney, Rodney Vubya.

Interview by Editor, Olivia Mitchell

Sunday, 8 July 2018

A Stagey Guide to Singing... Sharon Sexton, Danielle Steers, Christina Bennington | Bat Out of Hell | Stagey Sunday

Happy Stagey Sunday everyone! I hope you had a wonderful Pride yesterday and are enjoying the glorious weather. I'm actually on holiday in Corfu but that doesn't stop me from bringing you the newest instalment of this month's Stagey Guide to Singing! Bat Out of Hell month may be over but the Bat fun isn't over as this week we have stories, advice and information from the three leading ladies of the Steinman musical: Sharon Sexton, Christina Bennington and Danielle Steers...



What has your vocal journey been like?
Sharon Sexton (Sloane): I have been singing for as long as I can remember and was always told I had a "good voice" though no one in my family was a performer. I sang in school and my mum enrolled me in a youth music group when I was 5 and I lived for my weekly class. I learned all sorts of material and fell in love with musical theatre. I went to a couple of different local singing teachers and joined the school choir as a 1st soprano, though I always remember being jealous of the altos and wanting to learn their lines, because I thought their lines were more challenging and I found harmonies fascinating. 

There was nowhere in Ireland that taught the musical style I wanted to sing so I studied what video footage I could find of the greats like Bernadette Peters, Doris Day, Elaine Paige and Lea Salonga; studying their mouth shapes and imitating them. The same with Whitney and Mariah. I finessed all the riffs and set myself challenges in completing them. I ended up training classically in the Conservatory of Music in Dublin, which gave me a really solid foundation and understanding of my instrument, but all I wanted to do was sing contemporary musical theatre and belt. So I went through a host of singing teachers and robbed bits from everyone until I developed a technique that worked for me. 

My voice has definitely changed over time. I try and keep my top C soprano in check but like anything- when you don't use it that often, it gets rusty and I've accepted I shall probably now never be Christine in Phantom, I'm much more of a mezzo these days. 

Danielle Steers (Zahara): I've been singing for as long as I can remember. I went to an amateur dramatics group from around the age of 10 and still go back there now to help out and put on shows etc... My voice has definitely changed over the years. I couldn't belt until I went to college at 16 and only learnt how to twang and other techniques from my first few jobs. I have always had a low voice though, people always thought I was a lot older than my years due to the maturity of my voice. 

Christina Bennington (Raven): It’s been a long and exciting one. I began singing at school at the age of 7 and was in very high standard choirs for my entire school life at Methodist College Belfast. We rehearsed every day and it’s where I learnt the disciplines of sight singing, vocal maintenance and musicality. I took classical lessons and was convinced I wanted to be an opera singer until I fell in love with musical theatre. 

I started training in earnest at the Guildford School of Acting with Steven Luke Walker. Together we pushed my voice to extremes in every style so that I felt comfortable approaching anything. He’s a genuine wonder and I owe a lot of my jobs to his skill and teaching. I still see him when I have a new job or auditions because there’s always more to learn. 



What/who got you into music? 
Sharon: I can't ever say I remember my life without being completely obsessed with music. My dad had an amazing vinyl collection and I could sit for hours with headphones just getting lost in the music. 

Danielle: I actually have no idea, I didn't grow up in a particularly musical house. I just loved singing; it was how I expressed my emotions. I remember watching all the old MGM movies on TV and thinking how wonderful they were and wanting to be in them! 

Christina: My house was always filled with music and I still thank my Dad for a lot of my musical taste. He had carefully curated car CDs and amazing records he would play on his HiFi. My family are involved in amateur theatre in Northern Ireland so I got involved in pantomimes as a child. I’ve seen home videos of me imitating rockstars and opera singers from the age of two so I think it was always in me! 


Your voice is so smooth but strong at the same time. What are your tips for conveying the emotion of songs whilst maintaining power? 
Danielle: Why thank you, luckily the songs I sing in the show sit very well with an altos range, meaning I don't need to think too much about technique and I can just let rip with my emotions. 

I think power comes with emotion and even if you don't have the most powerful voice you can still make a song powerful by meaning every single word you sing and telling the story through the song. 


Bat Out Of Hell is a tough sing, during rehearsals how did you adapt to the vocal challenges it presents? 
Sharon: The tricky thing with Steinman's music is that it is so passionate and it reaches such great heights both musically and emotionally. The most difficult thing for me was finding a way to keep the passion and make the rock sound, but finding a technique to do it safely 8 shows a week, without losing that grit. I do a lot of belting and growling in the show, which I had to sing in to muscle memory and which I continuously have to keep in check. 

At the beginning of rehearsals the sing for Sloane seemed almost overwhelming, and I felt I was pushing myself to my limits, especially when we started moving keys up, but I was in rehearsals with Rob Fowler who is a vocal gymnast genius! And just when I felt I was getting to grips with my vocals, we would be working with the musical supervisor and Rob would ask "can I try something here?" and then sing and incredible riff and then go "Shazza could then sing that up a third no? or maybe you could octave that, or you could jump up and do a waaaaah there?" and I would clear my throat and go "uh uh, nope" and he said - "try it and if you can do it once, you'll find a way to do it 8 shows a week". I didn't know him very well at the time - but I was damned if I was going to be shown up! He pushed me to give so much vocally and believed in my ability to match him on stage, more than I ever did. All my numbers are duets with Rob so having that support and belief in a vocal partner on stage really gave me confidence to build the role vocally. And I think when you're on stage, yes technique is important but sometimes a lot of what comes out of your mouth, depends on the belief you have in your head. 


Do you have any personal/random techniques for maintaining vocal health? 
Christina: I’m afraid the secret for me isn’t very rock and roll! Sleep, hydration and avoiding too much stress and tension. Looking after myself is the best way to deliver a consistently strong 8-show week. It’s easy to be focused on that for a job that I love so much. My top tip is not to do a crazy vocal warm up. You don’t need to belt or push yourself there – it should be about activating the right things and setting up your voice for what the show requires – not a singing competition! 


Vocal health is obviously so important but do you have any coping techniques for the mental side of performing such as when you lose your voice or feel unmotivated? 
Danielle: I think a lot of the time when you "lose your voice" it can be a mental state. Sometimes if I know I have a big event coming up or new opening I "lose my voice" but it’s all in my head. You just have to trust that it will work, even maybe change your technique to get out certain notes. 

Steaming is a massive factor, drinking lots of water, I also like to keep my voice lubricated by having two Jakemans per show. When you feel unmotivated it's hard, especially with a show like Bat where you cannot give it any less that 100%! All I try to remember is why I'm doing what I'm doing, that people have paid good money to come see the show; the audiences reaction always helps us perform like it’s the first time every time. 


Steinman’s songs have some crazy belting so vowel modification must be important to make everything clear and safe to sing. Is that something you do naturally when learning music or do you change depending on the mood/style of the piece? 
Christina: Vowel modification is necessary to keep the sound safe and consistent the higher you sing. Steven has always taught me ways to make it subtle and to make the song work for my voice. It comes naturally now but it’s most useful if we have a week with lots of other vocal commitments outside the show. Technique is most useful when you’re tired. It enables you to modify safely and thin the sound down to help get back to full strength without compromising the sound of the show. 


Not only do you sing flawlessly in the show, but you’re also very humorous in the role, how do you bring that humour, comedic timing and lightness to your voice whilst still maintaining its power? 

Sharon: For me if I try and think "I have to be funny here" I will never make you laugh. I just commit 100% to the thought process of the character and believe in the truth of the moment. I find if you hunt for a laugh, you won't get it. So a lot of it is about storytelling and when I am in my head acting wise, the right noises just come out of my mouth... I hope... 


You dance as lot as well as singing in the show, what are your tips for doing both at once? 
Danielle: Gosh this is a hard one, this is something you go through every day at college. It's super hard especially if you're singing a different rhythm to what you're dancing, which happens a lot in Bat. The best thing to do is to sing along from the start of learning the choreography so you can get it into your head right from the go, then you can also work out where is best to breath. It's hard work! 


You’ve been doing the show for a while now so there must be a lot of muscle memory involved but are there any moments which are difficult or that you have to think about whilst performing? 

Sharon: My body is well oiled in the machine of the show now and my chords know what is expected of them, so yes it is actually getting easier to sing the role, the longer I play it, but on tired or ill days I do completely rely on my technique and have to step out of my character's head. ‘All Coming Back To Me’ can be tricky because of the blocking, I'm walking, in heels, on a raked stage, filled with track marks that like to eat my stiletto heels and it is highly emotional, so I have to play the feelings but I sometimes have to really concentrate on my breath and placement of that long "Now" note for 14 counts. I have to move the placement around to sustain it sometimes. There is no greater feeling that the days where my voice is on top form and I can just get lost in the emotion in that song. 

I also ironically find the last three lines of the show that I sing, really sneak up on me sometimes. It’s the very end of Anything For Love. Myself, Danielle (Zahara) and Christina (Raven) sing a little trio "I would do anything for love" to close the show and I have done a huge amount of belting and growling and crying and think it's all over and then go "oh gosh, this bit" and I have to take the high harmony in a very soft angelic voice which is very unlike any other part of the show for me, so I suddenly have to replace everything into my mix! 

Danielle: Sometimes you can go into auto pilot, it does happen, but I always have to be careful during "two out of three" it’s such an exposing song and everyone knows the words so I feel I really have to concentrate, also if you don't you end up not putting the emotion across. I also have to think about Tinks death scene, again, if you just go into auto pilot there’s no emotion there. ONE MORE.... DANCING DEAD RINGER IN THOSE HEELS!! Really have to concentrate in those haha! 

Christina: There’s definitely a degree of muscle memory but I’m never happy with what I’m doing. There’s always more to learn. I concentrate on different parts of the score for every week and explore making them bigger, stronger or smoothing transitions. The most difficult section for me is the ‘tuck jump chorus’ of For Crying Out Loud. Belting on almost one note as I jump with Andrew across the stage takes a lot of physical energy which needs to be balanced with not throwing too much breath at the sound. 


We know by now that I’m your breath control’s number one fan. Are there any particular exercises you do/have done to help with supporting? 
Christina: Haha thank you! You’re too kind. Breath control is an interesting one. I think a lot of people assume you need a big breath for a long phrase. As with a lot of singing, the rules aren’t one size fits all. In this style of music it’s often not the case. For a clear belt, I take a small high breath and support by resisting the breath in my rib cage. This can often lasts me many lines eg. the passage in Heaven Can Wait that I know you’re a fan of! 

For me, a lot of ‘breath control’ throughout the show is really about recovery breathing and fitness. I do as much interval sprinting and high intensity training as I can to ensure that I have the stamina for songs like ‘For Crying Out Loud’. If your body is strong and ready your voice will be too. 


Who would your dream duet partner be? 
Sharon: Male - I'm already singing with him 8 shows a week…. 

Female - Stevie Nicks 

Danielle: In terms of the show I’d have to say Rob Fowler, but in life Shirley Bassey 100% 

Christina: Andrew Polec of course! I’m beyond lucky to get to duet with him every night. Our voices fit well together. He is so resonant with so much weight in the sound which really gives me permission to use the full depth of mine. 

There are a lot of women I would love to duet with who I admire greatly. Hmmm. Amy Lee from Evanescence, Louise Dearman, Gina Beck, Laura Michelle Kelly, Rosalie Craig. I guess I’ve been inspired by all of them in different ways. Actually I did sing ‘At the Ballet’ in a concert with Louise so I suppose that’s sort of one already achieved!


What is your pre-show warm up like? 
Sharon: So important to me. I think it's important mentally and physically as when I start I can feel my brain sending all the signals to my voice going "ok, it’s that time of the day again" and it begins to anticipate what is expected of it. It's like starting the engine of a car before a long journey. I try not to use an awful lot of vocal energy during warm up. I keep it very light and subtle. A lot of closed mouth sirens, quiet humming, lip trills, slowly and focused so that I can just check in gently on every note. I'll also do a neck massage and loosen up my tongue muscles. I always do some amount of physical warm up but on days where my voice feels dry or tired I will really push myself with the dancers warm up, just to get my blood pumping in my muscles, which is so important to make my voice work. 

Danielle: We start with a physical warm up so I like to make sure my back and legs are super warm because of what is required of me, also the neck for head banging purposes! Then we do a vocal warm up which is super important as we sing loads! Then we do fight call which is so everyone can make sure their fights are all good and safe before the show. 

Christina: I love our full company physical with our dance captain Courtney. It gets my body woken up and prepped for the marathon that is Bat Out Of Hell. Then I take it easy in the company vocal. It depends what I need each day. 


What’s your top piece of advice for aspiring performers in terms of finding and maintaining your voice? 
Sharon: Know your limits. Accept them. 

Slowly and carefully continue to try work around them but remember your voice is unique, so embrace what you can do and let go of what you can't. 

If it hurts, stop. It should never be painful. 

Sometimes less is more - in terms of effort and support. A lot of people have the misconception that you must support and push and be tense on the big high belt notes when in fact the opposite can be so much more effective. 

Listen to your body when it's telling you that you need a rest. You only have one voice and if you are a performer - it is your life insurance, so never compromise it for anyone or anything or any production. It needs you to be smart to take care of it. When you need a show off, take it, because if you sing on a tired voice in a long run, it always, always catches up on you. Vocal massages are little gifts from heaven! Find a good therapist! 

Danielle: Always try new things, I didn't find my voice until I was about 18. Before then I had a very limited range and wouldn't have even dreamed of being able to sing the songs I can now. I still have a long way to go and I'm always trying to better my voice. It’s a case of playing around with different genres as well to see what fits well, rock, pop, jazz, musical theatre, legit? So much to choose from. Also.... don't smoke!!! 

Christina: I would say don’t compare your voice to anyone else. Yours is unique and wonderful! Absorb as much knowledge as you can and decide what works for you. Be disciplined in looking after your instrument and practise! 

Sending a massive thank you to Sharon, Christina and Danielle for giving us all their inside information of all things singing! Join us next Sunday for a tips from someone with All That Jazz

Bat Out of Hell is currently at the Dominion Theatre until 27th October 2018

Post by Editor, Olivia Mitchell


Photo credit: Specular, Christina Bennington, Danielle Steers