The folks at West End late night venue Studio 88 now cater to those for whom the party never stops in the form of their new West End Brunch. Offering Eggs Benedict, Bottomless Bloody Marys and a bevvy of West End talent to help wash it all down.
Hosted by the engaging Topsie Redfern (who sings way better than your average drag queen – must be the GSA training), the brunch squeezes in three guest artists who all have a connection to a particular musical which changes each week. The launch event was ‘Wicked’ week and we were treated to a smattering of numbers from the show over the course of the afternoon.
Topsie, who acted as a sort of audience fluffer throughout the affair, opened the show, alongside her band of dancers (who looked like their costumes had been purchased in Primark) with jazz classic ‘Feeling Good’, which she delivered with aplomb (and a little audience participation). She followed this up with a couple of more comical numbers before introducing the first guest artist.
First up was Laura Emmitt, who understudied the role of Elphaba for two years at the Apollo Victoria. She kicked off her set with ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ a rather strange choice for an opening number. This was followed by another slow number from The Last 5 Years and her set ended with ‘With You’ from Ghost. If it hadn’t been for a peppy and drama filled ‘No Good Deed’ as her penultimate number, I may have drowned myself in the bottomless Prosecco! Emmitt has a fantastic voice and amazing technique, but needs a little work on her audience patter.
Kane Oliver Parry struck a lighter note with his set, only singing one ballad and giving us a very rousing ‘I Want to Break Free’ from We Will Rock You. His duet with Emmitt of ‘As Long as You’re Mine’ was also beautiful and might’ve been even more so if they’d both had their own microphones!
The final set came from Steph Parry, who not that long ago made national news when she hot footed it from 42nd Street to Mamma Mia mid performance to take over the role of Donna at a moments notice! That professionalism shone through here too and her set really was the highlight of the afternoon. Her years of experience and craft really set her apart from her younger counterparts: she knew how to work the room, she had the patter down perfectly and she had a perfectly balanced set list, including a rewritten version of ‘A Summer in Ohio’ cleverly retitled ‘A Weekend doing Promo’ and a pitch perfect rendition of ‘The Winner Takes it All’ where she sang in perfect union with the impressive five piece band – making them sound tighter and more together than any of the other assembled performers.
West End Brunch is a great innovation and a wonderful way to spend a boozy Sunday afternoon. The food is pretty standard: Eggs Benedict et al but the drinks come thick and fast and the entertainment is the icing on the cake. The only thing that would improve this entertainment cocktail would be a director or some sort of curator to help tailor the set lists and song choices of the artists. But if you’re looking for an hair of the dog and a spring in your step after a heavy Saturday night, Studio 88 is the place to be.
Reviewed by Jody Tranter