Marisha Wallace has had quite the week and she wants to tell us all about it. Having taken over as Effie White in the West End Production of Dreamgirls (a major dream after playing Eggie White in Something Rotten on Broadway), she’s hoofed it over to The Charing Cross Theatre to launch her first album, the gloriously Christmassy Soul Holiday. Four shows over two nights would be a test for anyone’s vocals, but Marisha’s powerhouse pipes were born to do it (forgive the reference, but she worked with Craig David’s producers on the album).
Over the course of the show we’re treated to Ms Wallace’s hot-takes on the Christmas classics, from Do you hear? to a surprisingly sultry Little Drummer Boy. She also peppers the set with some songs formative in her career to date, including a spine-tingling rendition of I’m here from her turn as Celie in The Color Purple. Anyone waiting for the Dreamgirls showstopper And I am telling you will have left disappointed, but duets with Rachel Tucker and the uber-talented (and now Olivier nominated) Tyrone Huntley keep the energy up. Marisha owns the stage when she’s belting the tunes out, and there’s an interval costume change that Cher would applaud.
Some elements work slightly less well – you get the sense that she’s still finding her feet when it comes to the speaking segues, which come across a little stilted, and a couple of the numbers are over ad-libbed in the American diva fashion. But ultimately you can’t help liking Marisha, whose heart is clearly as big as her voice, and who’s as grateful to her sterling band (led by Musical Director and drummer Frank Totoh) as she is to the audience. If you listen to nothing else with your Christmas snowball this year, then try her version of Oh Come all Ye Faithful – an effortless and spirit-lifting delight that had us all a shade more joyful and triumphant.
Reviewed by April Delaney