Kieran Brown with guest artists got together at the Union Theatre to perform a one-off concert of songs that mattered to them.
Beginning with a low-key entrance, with no introduction, and unusually with the lights taken up rather than dimmed, Brown opened with a gentle medley of “Have Faith, Little One” and “Smile”. After introducing himself, he invited us to write on prepared slips of paper our favourite songs and why they mattered to us. These were not to be sung either by him or his guests, but taken out of a hat and shared throughout the evening – a nice original touch, which helped engage us.
Brown sings well, with good use of dynamics, and has presence. He relates warmly with the audience and puts both them and his guests at ease. Among the numbers that him at his best were “Pie In the Sky”, a great folk pop style ballad from Taboo, and “If They Only Knew” sung with real conviction and powerful emotion.
Each of his many guests from the world of musical theatre made excellent individual contributions both vocally and in terms of acting through song. Each was also invited to say why their song was important to them. Whilst everyone did well, inevitably some stand out for different reasons. Kira Morsley has a lovely classical musical theatre voice, and it was a nice change to see her solo “Home” from Phantom turn into a duet with Brown, effectively showing us a little scene from the show.
The huge voice of Charlotte Scott, currently appearing with Brown at the Union Theatre in the critically acclaimed premier of Rogers and Hammerstein’s piece Pipe Dream, singing “They Just Keep Moving The Line” made a big impact, and I particularly enjoyed Michelle LaFortune’s passionate and committed rendition of “Music and the Mirror”.
One guest I want to make special mention of, however, is Jeroen Robben. Not only does he have a fine voice, but he was the only one of the guests to really embrace the ‘cabaret’ element of the evening and dare to break the 4th wall when singing, looking directly at us and really engaging us in the telling of the story through the song, rather than presenting the character or scenario from the show it originated from.
As a whole entity, the evening had its flaws. It was too long with too many elements, started and finished too late, and would certainly need tightening if it were to go on to do a run. It also had a thrown together and unrehearsed feel to it, not least with material read from crib sheets and not learned (including several of Brown’s own solos), which would be less acceptable in a different setting. Nonetheless, this was a fun, enjoyable evening, well balanced with a variety of material, and these shortcomings could be easily surmounted should the show be taken further.
It would be interesting to see Brown develop in the art of cabaret, creating a one-man programme, telling us a coherent story through the music and lyrics, and using a variety of vocal styles and techniques to aid his narrative. Such an evening takes time, discipline and a great deal of crafting, and perhaps this is not the right moment for Brown to embark on something so demanding, given the amount of musical theatre work he is doing. The potential to do so is certainly there in this artist, though, and I hope one day he will rise to that challenge.
Other guests were Erin Cornell, Loula Geater and Georgie Burdett. Musical director Simon Lambert accompanied throughout and was occasionally joined by cellist Maria Roderiguez Reina.