Thursday, 15 May 2014

Scott Alan

Hippodrome, London

Scott Alan accompanies Cynthia Erivo

Straight off the plane from New York, Scott Alan pitched up at London's Hippodrome for a week's late night residency. The composer truly has a remarkable draw as like the Pied Piper he attracts talent from across the capital's music theatre scene to perform with him. Alan last played London in August 2013, packing out the Indigo O2 arena in a memorable evening that set a very high bar. At the Hippodrome, accompanied again by a crop of the West End's young and finest, Alan smashed expectations with a collection of performances that defined excellence.

There was much patter from the man at the piano. Unburdening himself to his audience and very much at home, preferring London as his favourite city to perform him, much of his banter was a disarmingly honest account of his struggles with his sexuality and of being rejected at home and bullied at high school. The family ties are healed now, but Alan's words tell of painful domestic dysfunctionality as well as his continuing and inspirational battle with depression. The self-deprecating humour flowed and where his guests could be affectionately mocked, Alan showed no mercy. But the underlying spirit of the event was a glorious triumph of the human spirit, interspersed with some wonderful songs and sung by some of the best voices in town.

Alan opened the proceedings with Nothing Remains from his latest album. Whilst his guests were to deliver vocal excellence, what Alan brings to the mic is an, at times, uncomfortably raw honesty and his ballad set a reflective tone. Next up though was Danielle Steers hot-footing it from The Bodyguard. Her energy and powerful mezzo delivery was a revelation and as she perfectly held the strongest notes for what seemed an eternity, Steers defined the hallmark of the evening's quality.

Sprinkled throughout the gig were talent-show winners, whose YouTube submissions had been judged by Alan with a lucky few invited to perform through the week. All showed enthusiastic promise, with Kara Bayer in particular having a fidelity that came dangerously close to matching the professional talent sandwiching the amateurs. 

Rob Houchen, fresh from his Marius obligations around the corner in Les Mis gave a beautifully invigorating take on Kiss The Air. Danielle Hope took to the stage with a delightful recollection of how the song Always is a personal inspiration to her, her intro summing up the essence of the night: well crafted numbers that mean so much to so many. Her singing was of course sublime.

Dean John Wilson electrified the crowd singing Home in a performance of soaring bravura, whilst partner Cynthia Erivo gave the sweetest interpretation of And There It Is in a number that defined the intimacy of both the song and the occasion.

A nod to the final two numbers that Alan himself sung. Blessing threw into relief the searing pain he felt at his mother's initial reaction to his coming out. Again, Alan’s disarming honesty at the microphone giving the song a powerful poignancy. The evening’s penultimate number Anything Worth Holding On To proving an emotional Everest for Alan to conquer,

Erivo was to return with an unexpected encore. Alan spontaneously decided he wanted the gig to end on a high and asked the singer to reprise her O2 triumph, High, a brilliant satire sung by and about a weed-stoned teenager, with no notice. Erivo graciously agreed and her hilarious performance proved a masterclass in acting through song, made all the more remarkable given that she hadn’t rehearsed the number for at least 8 months!

With a selection of stellar names guesting through the week, intimate performance does not get better than this. For fans, both of Alan and the modern cabaret genre, this residency is unmissable.

Scott Alan performs until 16th May as part of the London Festival of Cabaret

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