Keith Jack performed Up Close and Personal at the Matcham Room at the London Hippodrome.
Some 20 years later, though, Jack’s voice is far more suited to the musical theatre genre in which he has forged a career since ending as runner-up to Lee Mead in the BBC’s Joseph talent search, Any Dream Will Do. And this is evident almost straight away, as a rendition of Miss Saigon’s ‘Why God Why’ demonstrates what a deep, powerful voice Jack is capable of producing.
A passion for musicals’ belting numbers is evident, with Act I also including ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Misérables, Into the Woods’ ‘Giants in the Sky’ and ‘This is the Moment’ from Jekyll and Hyde. Indeed, in each he shows a tendency to over-rely on volume and vibrato, risking the numbers’ moments of calm. It comes across as possibly a lack of self-confidence – the comfort of knowing he can belt the big notes making up for doubt that he can carry off the softer passages.
But there’s no doubt that Jack is capable of lighter moments, as his renditions of ‘Luck Be a Lady’ and ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ demonstrate. And in Act II representing where Jack feels he is now, he is more relaxed, resulting in a series of performances that feel that they show off the young performer’s versatility. A warm relationship with musical director Paul Schofield and a couple of duets with former stage colleagues and friends always help – and with Alan Richardson reprising his falsetto turn from the Union Theatre’s all-male HMS Pinafore, Act II starts with broad beams of delight from performers and audience alike. Jack’s second guest, Shaun McCourt, joins him for a new reading of The Book of Mormon’s ‘Me and You’, turning the duet of self-confidence and fan worship into one of arrogance and resentment that works well.
The big belter numbers are present here too, of course, with ‘Music of the Night’ from The Phantom of the Opera – a show which Jack admits to having seen 19 times, possibly contributing to a much more accomplished, rounded performance than some of the big songs in Act I.
And nowhere is the need for, and success of, finding that emotional connection with the entirety of a song’s range more apparent than in Jack’s climactic number, a highly personal and bewitching performance of ‘You Raise Me Up’ that, save for a crowd-pleasing encore of ‘Any Dream Will Do’, brings a generally accomplished evening to a close.
With one act describing Jack’s roots and emergence as a musical theatre performer, and a second looking at where he is now, it is perhaps a shame that there is no third act, looking at where he will go from here. But as that career plays out on theatre and cabaret stages, this evening demonstrates that it’s always going to be worth watching.