Monday 11th April saw the first of our new season of cabaret performances, and opportunity was taken to tweak further our already successful formula from the Leicester Square Theatre Studio. By David Lardi.
First and foremost was the new venue, The Phoenix Artist Club, 1 Phoenix St WC2H 8BU, which is in the basement of the Phoenix Theatre, conveniently situated halfway down Charing Cross Road, midway between Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road tubes.
The venue is a private club frequented in the main by people working in the theatre business and originally created in order to provide them with an after-performance watering-hole in those iniquitous days when pubs closed at 10:30pm.
Adjacent to its spacious (and well-stocked) bar is a separate cabaret room with stage and real piano – hooray! – replete with individual tables and chairs. For those of us less than enamoured with the cramped and, frankly, grungy previous venue, this attractive and comfortable room was a welcome improvement. Every wall is covered with theatrical posters, many autographed, as well as other fascinating ephemera.
Our regular cabarets are to be held on the second Monday of each month and we are now able to expand from the previous limitation of a maximum of sixty minute shows to ones of up to two hours.
In charge of planning and hosting each evening is that multi-faceted performer, director and society friend Tim McArthur. The aim is have four artists at each show, Tim being joined by two singers with a track record in Sondheim along with a SSSSPOTY winner or finalist.
Indeed the intention is that these cabaret performances should provide a showcase for these young artists and give us a chance to catch them at the start of their careers. In the future, it is planned that one of these shows should become part of the prize itself.
With regards to repertoire, the focus is squarely on Sondheim – approximately 50% of the programme – along with some interesting new writing coupled with works from the music theatre back catalogue, including forgotten gems. Indeed, something for everybody.
This first show was a good indication of things to come. Along with Tim was the musical phenomenon that is Martin Milnes who, with Dominic Ferris, wowed us all at the Drury Lane Hey, Old Friends! Gala in “33 Sondheim in 5 Minutes”. He was joined by Valerie Cutko, well-known in the West End and on Broadway.
Our SSSSPOTY artist was the always-popular Corrine Priest, winner of the 2014 Prize and one of the stars of our own commissioned show GOD! in the same year. (A full review of this cabaret will appear in the next magazine.)
Musical Director on this occasion was David Harvey, a role in the future regularly to be taken by Aaron Clingham.
Even though this was the very first of our new shows, there was a large audience in attendance so early booking for future dates is strongly advised to avoid disappointment. This can be done on via the Phoenix Artist Club.
The next cabaret is on Monday 9 May, where 2014 SSSSPOTY finalist Howard Jenkins, recently seen as one of the Mizner brothers in the Union Theatre Road Show, will be joined by Emma Ralston and Jo Wickham, both of whom scored great personal successes in Into the Woods at Ye Olde Rose & Crown.
Further shows are planned into October, the following two dates being confirmed as 13 June and 11 July.
There’s a further bonus in that the Society has managed to negotiate half-price annual membership for The Phoenix Artist Club for all our members – a saving of £100. Why not have your own private London club, complete with restaurant? Who knows whom you might be sat next to!
★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
The Sondheim Society Presents… “A welcome sight in the cabaret scene”
Musical Theatre Review