Review: Mountview Showcase (Criterion Theatre)

A slightly unusual trip for me this week, as I ventured over to the Criterion Theatre in Picadilly Circus to watch the Mountview showcase. It’s showcase time of year (see this week’s The Stage for reviews), but I was attending the show for Mountview’s one-year musical theatre programme.

I was hoping to spot the talent that will find their way to the West End stage before too long, but I couldn’t help feeling slightly disappoined at what I saw. Don’t get me wrong – there were definitely a number of performers who look likely to have a successful career in front of them, but there were an even larger number of people who looked out of their depth.

The show itself was incredibly well put together, resulting in a very slick hour of lunch-time entertainment. The show’s Director, Ian Good, has been doing the job for more than 10 years now, and certainly seems expert in weaving together multiple pieces into a coherent whole. Sam Spencer-Lane‘s choreography certainly helps, but given her West End experience, that should come as no surprise. Whilst the Criterion lends itself well to this kind of show, the cramped stage must have made the choreography a challenge!

I don’t intend to go through each of the performers in turn (it’s down to the agents to do that when they decide who to take on), so I’ll limit myself to some highlights and lowlights.

 

The Highlights
In alphabetical order, my highlights of the show were:

  • Annabel King – Another great character performance for the penultimate song of the show, with ‘Here I Am’ from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Made full use of the song’s humour, to the apparent delight of the audience
  • Dina Tree – a very witty performance of ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’, a great tune from The Little Mermaid. She shows every sign of being a brilliant character actress, so I’d expect to hear plenty more about her.
  • Janine Pardo – A good, if not inspiring, performance of ‘My Simple Wish’ from Listen to my Heart – she reminded me of a younger Bernadette Peters. She appears to already have an agent and plenty of experience, so likely to be in the West End soon
  • Rebecca Hutchinson her rendition of ‘Wait a Bit’, a beautiful song by Stiles and Drewe from their musical Just So, was one of very few examples in this show of a performer demonstrating real acting talent at the same time as singing.
  • Tim Jackson – the only man who really impressed me in the show, despite not doing himself any favours by chosing a very tough number, ‘Everybody Says Don’t’ from Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle. Musically very strong, although performance could have done with a little more sparkle.

 

The lowlights
Overall, I was very disappointed with the standard of the men in the show, and the choice of songs was questionable for many of the performers. Some of the worst choices (once again in alphabetical order) were as follows:

  • ‘Buenos Aires’ – Holly Vernon-Harcourt had her work cut out with this number from Evita. The fact that the semi-finalists of ‘I’d Do Anything’ struggled with this song little over a month ago should have been a warning. Incredibly tough to get the words out unless a performer has exceptional diction, which Vernon-Harcourt did not.
  • ‘Mein Herr’ – should have been a good choice of song from Cabaret, but Lucy Mills’ performance was a little dull. I would have expected far more pizzazz from such a a well-known song.
  • ‘Memory’ – I was pretty shocked to see anyone peforming this song from Lloyd Webber’s Cats – for me, it’s far too famous (and frankly, a little dull) to be chosen for a showcase number. Nicola Gainey didn’t do that bad a job, but the upper end of her voice was pretty stretched.
  • ‘Passover’ – A fantastic song by William Finn from Elegies: A Song Cycle, but it calls for real vocal control. Unfortunately, Marcia Brown appeared to struggle with her pitching in what was a very tough choice.
  • ‘Shouldn’t I Be Less In Love with You’ – a perfectly pleasant song from one of my favourite shows, I Love you, You’re Perfect, Now Change, but nowhere near challenging enough for a showcase. Danny-John Noonan did ok with the far from difficult vocals, but he seemed to be performing it as a pop song given the absence of any acting

 

Apparently The Stage were at the show and will be publishing their review in this week’s edition. I’ll be interested to see if they agree with any of my comments!

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