Caroline Sheen – Feeling Lucky at Live At Zedel, London.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Feeling Lucky weren’t exactly the words used by the golden-voiced Caroline Sheen when she arrived at Live At Zedel with laddered tights and no spare pair, but by the end of a great-value, fun-filled set it was her cheering audience who were feeling as if they’d hit the jackpot.
With top musical theatre credits on both sides of the pond – Mary Poppins on the first national USA tour, Eponine, Sandy and Truly Scrumptious in Les Mis, Grease and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, to name but three in London – she has made her own luck and wanted to share it.
Blessed with a truly thrilling voice and an impish sense of humour, Sheen entertained us regally for the best part of two hours with a happy mix of old and new.
She is a great supporter of new work which is borne out on her recent CD Raise the Curtain. While Stiles and Drewe, Jason Robert Brown and Adam Guettel can no longer be classed as ‘new’, they are still newer than some.
But Grant Olding, Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary and Brown’s wife Georgia Stitt are names unfamiliar to many of us who deserve to be heard.
It was a novel idea to place significant items from her past life into a carrier bag, from her Welsh beginnings, through her Guildford School of Acting days, the auditions, the ever-expanding career and marriage to fellow actor Michael Jibson, and ask audience members to pick one out.
So she had her programme prepared but didn’t know the song order in advance. It was a slightly scatty plan that might have fazed a lesser MD than Francis Goodhand and was probably the reason why the singer herself fumbled a few lines here and there.
Sheen explained what a particular book, scribbled page or object meant to her and sang songs appropriate to that period under headings such ‘Lucky Book’, ‘Lucky Wales’, ‘Lucky Bird Poo’, ‘Lucky Date’ and ‘Lucky Me’.
The bird poo, a sizeable dump by all accounts, arrived as she rushed from one early audition (for Grease) to another (Salad Days). ‘Lucky’ because she got both parts, opting for Grease, and a West End career was launched.
‘Lucky Wales’ comprised the very rude ‘A Simple Valley Song’ by Brunger and Cleary, about a Welsh stewardess, which allowed Sheen full rein to show off her brilliant timing and naughtier side, and ‘The Boy From…’, Sondheim and Mary Rodgers’ witty spin on ‘The Girl From Ipanema’.
The ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwlllanttysiliogogogoch’ punchline to ‘The Boy From…’, which Sheen naturally delivered in perfect Welsh, was a treat and she has a great way with accents, her country-girl American spot-on for JRB’s terrific ‘Mr Hopalong Heartbreak’.
Whether it was the gentle humour of Stiles and Drewe’s ‘Carrying a Torch’, the balladic beauty of Guettel’s ‘Light in the Piazza’, or the more familiar territory of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, ‘Wherever He Ain’t’ or ‘Mister Snow’, this vivacious and immensely likeable trouper was bang on the money.
Just as pleasing were Stephen Schwartz’s ‘Stranger to the Rain’ (from Children of Eden) and the ‘Something’ duet (with former Phantom Kieran Brown) from The Witches of Eastwick, the show in which, 16 years ago, she created the part of Jennifer Gabriel in the West End.
The evening was almost an embarrassment of riches and would have been better with an interval. But under Zedel’s new, hectic schedule and a different show waiting in the wings for the stage, a break would have meant missing out on some great songs. You can’t have everything.
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Interview – Caroline Sheen