Rob Rokicki Back in London at The Pheasantry, London.
Rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
The New York singer-songwriter Rob Rokicki stopped off at The Pheasantry on his way to Berlin and delighted a Sunday sell-out audience with 25 compositions that are making him one of the more exciting new writers in musical theatre.
His best-known work, The Lightning Thief, already has two national tours running, was nominated alongside Hamilton, the hottest ticket on Broadway, for a Lucille Lortel Outstanding Musical award, and returns Off-Broadway next year.
A mean performer on piano and guitar (though not the most subtle!), he played us two from that show, ‘Good Kid’, beautifully interpreted by Joshua LeClair, and the witty ‘My Grand Plan’’, sung by his sweet-voiced wife Amanda Flynn.
He also showcased another musical, Love, NY, very sharp, New Yorky and showbizzy, and material from his new album Monstersongs was very much on the evening’s agenda.
‘Casting Call For a Best Friend’, an amusing duet performed by Emily Lynne and Sinead Wall (who starred together last year in Romance, Romance at the Landor), shone among the Love, NY material.
This was followed by Lynne assisting Michael Auger, from 2014 Britain’s Got Talent winners Collabro, on ‘I Want to Go Back’. Was handsome Auger part of the reason for the full house, the younger-ladies element and the buzzy atmosphere?
A long first set climaxed with two crackers, ‘Torch Song’ from 2012 Britain’s Got Talent runner-up Charlotte Jaconelli and ‘Bigger Things’ by Tyrone Huntley, a scene-stealer as the Ugandan doctor with ‘maggots in my scrotum’ in The Book of Mormon.
Classical crossover Jaconelli has a voice that would even make the phone book sound good, so it was a treat to hear her again after the interval, duetting with Auger on ‘Eastern Mountain Central’, a clever song about time zones.
She and Lynne (who acted together on Jaconelli’s musical theatre debut in She Loves Me at the Landor) were pure class. The latter’s full-throttle ‘Say Goodbye’ made one realise how blessed Rokicki was to have them to put across his smart, clever and often funny songs.
Other ‘friends’ taking part included fellow singer-songwriter Tony Greenlaw (Sky News the Musical), Helen Woolf and Amy Davis (who not only sang but was part of Rokicki’s backing band with Scott Jowett, Misha Mulloy-Abbado and Rubén Elbrond-Palmer).
Rokicki himself is well worth listening to whether writing, singing or playing. The patter? Not so much. His rambling introductions made for a long evening. Two fewer songs would have improved it. But talent and Rokicki’s boyish enthusiasm won the day.