Cabaret debut for 3 leading ladies all called Shona! The 3 Shonas at The Pheasantry
Here we have three leading ladies – Shona White, Shona Lindsay and Shonagh Daly – joined together by name, their individual travels to London from Scotland or Ireland, and shared love of musicals and singing – a fun idea put together for the inaugural London Festival of Cabaret.
Opening like a girl group (think the 3 Degrees or Supremes), the first half introduces them with songs playing on their shared Christian name, though Daly has a ‘gh’ it is emphasised, featuring an original song written specially for them by Chris Hamilton named, appropriately, “Three Different Roads”. The main body of the show is a collection of songs they like to sing either individually or as a trio.
There are some lovely standout numbers, including White’s beautiful mezzo voice moving us with the well-worn but ever passionate torch songs “Maybe This Time” and “The Man That Got Away”, an emotive and powerful gesture to Remembrance Sunday with “If This is What We’re Fighting For” and “Nobody’s Side”. These were sung as a trio, but they also gave Daly a chance to show her versatility both as light soprano and strong pop voice. I also particularly liked Lindsay’s sensitive handling of “With One More Look At You” and the delightful trio arrangement of “Sing For Your Supper”.
Also featured are amusing touches with audience participation in the song “Wild Mountain Thyme” – with an African connection (apparently!) and very good choreography from Cressida Carré making the most of the tiny Pheasantry stage.
The links are thought through and make sense, and there is enough variety in the material and vocal tones of the artists to keep us engaged. Each performer a success in her own right, the quality of the singing goes without saying and their voices blend pleasingly.
The ladies were very ably accompanied by a rhythm section led by the excellent MD Simon Beck at the piano, whose arrangements work well and their playing particularly effective in the Rolling Stones song “Wild Horses”.
This is the first time the 3 Shonas have joined forces, and for at least one of them, the first foray into cabaret altogether. It will be interesting to see how the act grows should they choose to take it further. Personally, I hope they will.
Areas of development they might like to consider are crafting a show on a stronger theme or clear idea other than just their name, where the songs have a dramatic or more contextual reason to be there, and also breaking the 4th wall more in the songs themselves, relaxing enough into them to engage us more directly. To do that takes a lot of courage, and this show was their first one in their first attempt, so any lack of cabaret style engagement will most likely develop as the show plays in. Employing these elements would, however, mature the piece and add layers.
As it stands, this is a charming night out and very enjoyable, each artist a great singer with three fine musicians behind them in a fun and creative piece – what’s not to like?