This was my first experience of Pizza Express Live in Holborn. The downstairs of the restaurant has been turned into a cabaret venue with about 80 seats, including an eating bar around the small stage.
Unfortunately in trying to create a cabaret atmosphere, the lighting is so low it is impossible to read the menu – cue the torch app! The second problem is that the venue went from almost empty to almost full in 5 minutes as showtime approached which caused the staff problems. Our starters were out quickly, but we had a very long wait for our main courses and when they arrived they were cold and had to be sent back, finally arriving after the show had started.
I do love an evening of dinner and a show – the Jazz Café in particular is a favourite venue, but I prefer to eat and then watch a show. It must be so off-putting for performers putting their heart and soul into their show only to hear the constant clink of cutlery and plates being cleared. Those on stage must want eyes up not eyes down!
The Cabaret Collective founded by David Olds is a group of West End performers who are appearing at this venue to raise money for Maggie’s www.maggiescentres.org. David introduced the group, then gave the stage to Ali Orr from Maggie’s who provided some further details about the charity and its work.
For the opening number of the show, all members of the collective came on stage for a lovely rendition of Seasons of Love from Rent. It is a shame that this was the only song where the whole collective sang together as their voices worked very well as a group.
This ensemble piece was followed by each of the performers taking to the stage with a song (presumably of their own choosing). This led to a lack of flow for the whole evening and no real narrative, just a group of people performing their favourite pieces.
The standout performances were the more comedic turns: Amy Soloman’s rendition of “Sunday in the Park with George” from the musical of the same name was excellent and her “Miss Byrd” from Closer than Ever was very funny. It is not a song I have heard before but will certainly seek out the musical based on this performance. Melissa Cavanagh – a finalist on The Voice – provided another great comedy moment with “Portrait of a Princess”.
After a couple of false starts Emma Killip gave a fantastic rendition of “All Falls Down” from Chaplin the musical. It was the strongest performance of the evening and it was a shame that she only performed the one song.
Ben Purkiss, who was a late stand in for Simon Gordon, gave a beautiful version of Maria from West Side Story; you could have heard a pin drop by the end. It was a shame that his friends on the next table were not polite enough to give the same respect to the other artistes and stop talking while the songs were being sung. If we were in a theatre I would not have hesitated to tell them to shut up but the more relaxed environment of the cabaret club left me in a quandary.
The evening was a good mix of songs from the most well known shows and some lesser performed gems. Congratulations are due to all the singers for giving up their Sunday evening and very possibly their only day off of the week to raise money for this charity.
Reviewed by Kirsty Heath
FOLLOW WEST END WILMA TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | YOUTUBE