West End On Sea are a company that originated in Brighton, however have recently started performing in their new venue, Proud Cabaret. Proud Cabaret City is modelled on a 1920’s speakeasy and offers an evening of fine dining and entertainment of unrivalled prestige. West End On Sea – aka The Follow Spot in London – have just begun their spring season kicking off with the legend that is Anna-Jane Casey. The Follow Spot will have West End stars coming to perform at the Proud Cabaret every other Sunday until the end of April.
In her outstanding career she has amassed a colossal catalogue of achievements. Recent credits include Velma in Chicago (opposite Ruthie Henshall) and Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot. To name a few more she has also been in West Side Story, Cats, Grease, Sunday In The Park With George and the original cast of Joseph. Casey is also Principal Vocalist with the John Wilson Orchestra, recently at BBC Proms singing alongside Seth MacFarlane and Curtis Stigers. She has just completed another run of the outrageously funny Forbidden Broadway in the West End. And on top of all this, as her tattoo says on her back she if a ‘wife, mother and marathon runner’ – a woman of many talents to say the least.
From the start Casey created such an easy and casual air in the room. Most likely due to the fact that she bought possibly the largest pot of tea and mug onto stage that I have seen, being a conversation starter to say the least. Being yourself and building a rapport are crucial for cabaret artists that hope to be successful otherwise the audience will feel very distant; even in a small, intimate venue such as Proud Cabaret which will only be damaging to the artists performances. From speaking to Casey after the show one of the first things she said was, ‘was it funny?’. I feel pretty confident speaking on behalf of the audience answering that question with a massive yes! The thing that made the evening so successful was that Casey was simply being herself: talented, hilarious and charismatic.
There were no illusions from the beginning as to what Casey would be showcasing after stating ‘just because I’m in musicals, I don’t actually do musical songs…’ To which at first I was slightly shocked as I personally feel as a musical theatre performer having your own cabaret, you will have some theatre fans in the audience that will want to hear some of your musical theatre rep. However, Casey treated the audience to a variety of styles of songs, predominantly pop and jazz with a small amount of others injected in also. And shortly after she had started, the worry of not hearing musical theatre songs had vanished. Casey had the audience clapping along to her version of Locked out of Heaven by Bruno Mars, listening in awe to her rendition of Piaf and in stitches of laughter at her hilarious performance of I’m On The Stage. In just over an hour she showed how talented and versatile she is as a performer through the range of songs selected.
The evenings support acts were also incredibly talented. The compare of the evening, Jess Robinson, started the evening with a near flawless performance of Feeling Good, after which she proceeded to play the game ‘The Impressions Cocktail’ which at first seemed too much of an ice breaker. However, as the show continued and more games were played the hilarity and talent of Robinsons impressions were showcased. Tim Newman, our second support act was a strong contemporary singer and a very good crowd pleaser. Starting with the emotionally draining song from Rent, One Song Glory, Newman captivated the audience for the majority of the song, only detracting away from that when vocal choices took precedence over acting choices. The third support act for the night, Lawrence Owen delighted the audience to his comical re-imaginings of Disney classics amongst other original comedy works. The evening would not have been a triumph without the musical talents of Simon Pickering, Musical Director/Piano, Matt Greaves on Guitar, Dan Hall on Bass and Gareth Roberts on Drums.
Standout moments from the evening have to be Casey’s cover of I’ll Be Your Clown by Emeli Sande, her clear crowd pleaser of Locked Out Of Heaven by Bruno Mars and her hilarious Liza segment from Forbidden Broadway. Additionally, Jess Robinsons impressions medley was so accurate, her Shirley Bassey has to be my favourite!
Reviewed by Thomas Yates
Take a look at who is performing next in this series of Cabaret shows here