Stephen Rahman-Hughes performed at the Matcham Rooms at the London Hippodrome.
The audience at the Hippodrome’s Matcham Rooms was not quite as packed for Stephen Rahman-Hughes’ cabaret gig on Saturday night as it has been for other, perhaps better known, faces from the world of musical theatre. But for anybody who stayed away, it was their loss, for they missed a soulful, inspirational, unpretentious performance.
Starting with a deep and resonant introduction to the Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse standard ‘Feeling Good’, any suspicions that this was to be an evening of sub-Michael Bublé crooning were quickly allayed as the tempo ratcheted up immediately, with elements of James Brown’s ‘Sex Machine’ also creeping in. Such an opening set the tone for the evening – well-known numbers, arranged and performed in a pleasing, occasionally surprising manner.
This was an evening that was just as reverential to jazz standards, from ‘Unchained Melody’ to a Kurt Elling-inspired arrangement of ‘Nature Boy’ to newer material such as David Guetta’s Titanium. The joy that Rahman-Hughes finds in each song comes across with engaging infectiousness.
Preeya Kalidas, the first of Rahman-Hughes’ two guest stars, complemented his vocal style well in two numbers. Both the Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush duet ‘Don’t Give Up’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ were meticulously arranged, delicately performed numbers that were over too soon.
The evening formed a reunion of sorts between Kalidas and Rahman-Hughes’ second guest, Lee Mead – the former having been the narrator in Mead’s West End debut role as Joseph. Mead’s Act II segment kicked off with a tender solo performance of Cat Stevens’ ‘Father and Son’, before being joined by Rahman-Hughes for a rambunctious, joyful rendition of ‘Luck Be a Lady’. While Mead is currently pursuing a straight acting career in BBC1’s Casualty, his performance demonstrated that his passion for live singing remains undimmed – a passion certainly reciprocated by his fans in the audience.
Regardless of the guest stars, this was Rahman-Hughes’ evening. Capable of expressing great tenderness and chest-thumping masculinity, he’s also clearly adept at crafting a great evening of soulful, jazz-fuelled cabaret.
Rahman-Hughes was accompanied by musical director Will Stuart, Laurence Ungless on bass and Ed Richardson on drums.