Review: Lauren Kennedy (Menier Chocolate Factory)

Originally posted on March 16th Lauren Kennedy

Wow! I went to see Lauren Kennedy at the Menier Chocolate Factory this weekend, and she was ridiculously good. I was in good company too – Sir Trevor Nunn was also in the audience and certainly seemed to enjoy the show.

For those of you that don’t know, Lauren Kennedy is an American musical theatre performer. She has starred in Broadway in shows including Spamalot, Les Misérables, and Sunset Boulevard. She also performed in Trevor Nunn’s South Pacific at the National Theatre in London. She is also often associated with Jason Robert Brown, and played the original Cathy in his show, The Last Five Years

Right, that’s enough by way of introduction…

The show was amazing. Lauren is a truly fantastic performer, and a completely natural compere as well – she chatted with the audience throughout, and was genuinely amusing as well. It just seemed like she was having a lot of fun on-stage, and the audience certainly loved her too. There were plenty of die-hard fans in the audience which made for a great atmosphere.

The majority of the night’s songs came from Lauren’s new album, Here and Now – although it seems churlish to chose favourites when the whole show was so good, my particular favourites (in no particular order) were:

1. The upbeat opening number, ‘Here I Am’ from the hilarious Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
2. The achingly beatiful ‘Just Not Now’ from I Love you Because
3. The barnstorming finish to the first half, ‘Mr Hopalong Heartbreak’ by Jason Robert Brown
4. The hilarious ‘Apathetic Man’ by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich

Lauren was also joined on stage by two terrific guests – Lara Pulver and Philip Quast. Lara’s performance of ‘Summer in Ohio’ from The Last Five Years was one of the highlights of the evening, reminding the audience why she was nominated for an Olivier award this year.

I also want to mention the band. Despite only meeting each other (and Lauren) at lunchtime, they were incredibly slick, so all credit to Nigel Lilley, the Musical Director…

As you’ll see if you look at the track list on Lauren’s CD, most of the songs she performs are from shows that are little-known in this country; in fact, Jason Robert Brown is really the only one of the writers who has even approached the mainsteam in the UK. However, these are some truly exceptional shows musically, and some remarkably talented writers, and I look forward to the day when more of them are staged here in London. All credit to the Menier and the Donmar for starting the ball rolling in recent years.

I plan to write more about some of these shows in the coming weeks, so if you’re interested in finding out more about the shows that last night’s songs came from, then do come back and check out this blog.

So finally, I just wanted to say one last time – Lauren Kennedy is fantastic. She is probably the most talented musical theatre actress that I have had the pleasure of seeing on stage – it’s a close contest between her at Idina Menzel, who I was lucky enough to see in Wicked last year.

If you haven’t heard of Lauren Kennedy, it’s time you had! You can rectify that situation right now by checking out her myspace page here, or by buying her CD from here.

Until next time…

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