The Follow Spot cabaret evenings are performed at London’s Proud Cabaret City (featuring Jess Robinson, Jack Shalloo and headliner Julie Atherton). The season continues until 26 April.
Star rating: 4 stars ★ ★ ★ ★
There is something eery about the City of London on a Sunday evening. Streets packed with pedestrians during the week become part of a ghost town, the occasional car becoming the only clue that humanity still exists. So an odd location, then, for an evening of musical theatre-inspired cabaret. But Follow Spot has chosen Proud Cabaret City as the venue for its Sunday shows, and it is definitely worth the trip.
Ably hosted by Jess Robinson, who warms the audience up with a succession of comedy impressions (who would have thought Motorhead classic ‘The Ace of Spades’ could provide such appropriate material for Lily Allen), Sunday’s show proper started with Jack Shalloo. One of Shalloo’s many strengths is that, in an industry where so many singers perform in a generic mid-Atlantic drawl, his voice remains resolutely, undeniably and proudly faithful to his London roots.
A trilogy of numbers put this to good use, kicking off with a stunning arrangement (by composer Craig Adams) of Lionel Bart’s ‘Who Will Buy’ from Oliver! Following up with two songs from his 2011 self-penned album London Soul, both ‘City Boys’ and ‘She Takes Care of Me’ illustrate that as well as being an engaging performer, Shalloo has a knack for great storytelling in his songwriting.
Musical comedian Laurence Owen has built a solid routine from challenging movie tropes. Whether singing about the career choices for women in Disney movies, or the desire of animal sidekicks to one day get a leading role, there are plenty of laughs to be had. It is unfortunate, perhaps, that similar ground would be trod more humorously, and more concisely, by the evening’s headline act.
Julie Atherton has forged a popular following by refusing to be pigeon holed. At one end of the scale she is one of the most capable comedic performers around, as exemplified by her renditions of both Michael Bruce’s Disney parody ‘Portrait of a Princess’ (the aforementioned number that skewers Disney fairytale cliché) and her playing of a precocious young girl in Kerrigan-Lowdermilk’s ‘My Party Dress’. At the other, she carries off a rock chick vibe, as exemplified by the title track from her latest album, ‘Rush of Life’.
And at every stage in between, it is impossible not to be charmed by her, especially when performing songs from musicals she has performed in. The wistful ‘The Life I Never Led’ from Sister Act, and the rather heavier ‘Lost in Translation’ from Craig Adams’ Lift, exercise different aspects of her personality, but perhaps the one best suited to her character is the duet ‘Fine’, from Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days. Lyrically fun with undercurrents of emotional development seeping through, it befits a performer who can take the tensions between comedy and drama and find ways to bring both to the fore simultaneously. And not just in a Disney way.
Readers may also be interested in:
The Follow Spot Cabaret (featuring Jess Robinson, Tim Newman, Laurence Owen and Anna-Jane Casey) – Proud Cabaret City – Review
Follow Spot cabaret season kicks off with Anna-Jane Casey – News