Daniel Koek – The Pheasantry

desktopDaniel Koek has had a pretty impressive career so far, by anyone’s standards. Taking the lead role of Tony in ‘West Side Story’ on the 50th Anniversary tour back in 2008 kicked things off, and there’s been no stopping him since: The Russian in the UK tour of ‘Chess’, Lt Cable in ‘South Pacific’ and, most recently, the coveted role of Jean Valjean in the West End production of ‘Les Miserables’. Musicals obviously fit Koek like a glove. Cabaret, however, is a whole different ball game. It depends on intimacy between artist and audience, it depends on well-planned badinage between songs, it depends on a thoughtfully constructed set with a narrative arc and, hopefully, some meaning.

An intimate venue like the Pheasantry built my expectations for such an evening. Alas, most of this was lacking at Daniel’s gig last night: yes, the man can sing. Oh, can he sing – a strong, tenor voice with range for days and a silky tone. He’s less comfortable, however, engaging in easy conversation with the audience, or with remembering a few key facts about songs or shows (instead, a piece of A4 paper was pulled out and recited in a monotone fashion. Twice). There was also no discernible reason behind, or meaning to, his choice of material.

By all accounts, though, the show was a success. The audience was large, appreciative and vocal and we were treated to some great musical theatre repertoire: ‘I Am What I Am’, ‘Something’s Coming’ and ‘This Is The Moment’ to name but a few. Yet I left wanting more: not just more light and shade in Koek’s performances and more thematic linking of songs, but to learn Koek’s himself. At their best, gigs like this can be like a date: the revelation of a person through music. In this instance, I learned nothing more about the man I’d spent the evening with than a list of his professional credits. If it were a date, I’m not sure we’d be going on a second.

Reviewed by Jody Tranter