Harold Sanditen’s Open Mic Night – 4th Birthday at Live At Zédel, London.
Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Open Mic Night in the Crazy Coqs cabaret bar at Live At Zédel is now celebrating its fourth year. Originally a weekly event, this now monthly gig has become a Mecca for all would-be cabaret performers – not just in the UK but internationally.
The regular event is the brainchild of host Harold Sanditen, and it’s fantastic to see this already seasoned vocalist providing a platform for fresh, new talent.
Sanditen doesn’t simply introduce the acts however. There is a whole matrix of scheduling that needs to be plotted on the night of each show to ensure that the evening runs smoothly and that everybody gets their chance to shine.
His meticulous planning is a marvel in itself -– the man is constantly on the move thinking at least three acts ahead of everybody else.
In support, he has a wickedly talented band including Robert Rickenberg on bass and – a benchmark for all quality cabaret in London – Michael Roulston on piano.
For this fourth birthday party, the band was joined by percussionist Jonathan Kitching, who slipped into the mix with supreme confidence and only added to the quality of each number.
As usual, Sanditen opened with a rousing upbeat number, here a surprising arrangement of ‘I’ve Got the Music in Me’, which proved a genuine crowd-pleaser.
The vocalist didn’t dwell though, and after a warm welcome, jumped straight in with the first act.
To an onlooker, the range and diversity of the talent is fascinating. The show can provide a high-profile advertising slot for a forthcoming cabaret and, judging by the number of flyers being handed out, this is certainly the case. There are no rules about song choices, although long, slit-your-wrists ballads seriously fail to chime with the mood of the event. Beyond that, anything is acceptable.
Julia Hamilton opened with the smilingly familiar Shirley Bassey standard ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, but Simon Blake gave us ‘I Love Betsy’ from Jason Robert Brown’s Honeymoon in Vegas.
Stephen Morallee showed off his comedy chops with a very funny spin on ‘Saving All My Love For You’, whereas Melissa Cantzlaar delivered a rich, bluesy, soulful number of her own composition sans musicians.
To newcomers, the Open Mic Night can either be a high-octane dare on your last night in London or the first tentative step toward a career in cabaret.
Crazy Coqs virgins included Valerio Catallo, mournful on an acoustic guitar; Megan Dooley from Kalamazoo singing Fats Waller’s ‘Viper’s Drag’; Grace Liston introducing the audience to the work of US composing team Carner & Gregor with ‘New York Do You Care?’; and Kelly Burke belting out ‘Can That Boy Foxtrot’ with more than a little innuendo.
Familiar faces included Jenny Green, Michelle Colleary and April Ho, while veteran performer David Forest brought the house down with a number that explained ‘My Secret Love’ was in fact Tyrone Power.
Sanditen’s Open Mic Night is slick, self-assured and thankfully fairly unpredictable. There were a few creaky performances but that was to be expected with so many unknown quantities involved. There may be quite a few open mic nights in London, but few of them have either the cachet, class or camaraderie that emanates from this central London venue.