When Frank Met Ella – Blackmore Players, Blackmore Village Hall.
When you see Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald in the same sentence you are talking about 2 all-time greats – legends in fact! So, going to see an evening of their music I wasn’t sure whether it would live up to expectations.
On arrival, it was clear a high amount of effort had gone into the evening from the red carpet with the nightclub name on to the coasters on the tables – all adding to the overall ambience. The actor/waiters impeccably dressed and all wearing radio mics also gave a slight feeling of a Disney Themed restaurant where you expected them to jump on the tables and belt out a number or two and in that aspect, we were not disappointed.
Other than a steady diet of Musical Theatre I was brought up on the big band sound of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and the Rat Pack so I recognised most of the songs on the playlist and knew if nothing else I would have a grand sing-along night however, once the band started up and the evening was opened by the lovely Lisa Rawlings, I knew it was going to be far more than that.
I must commend all the performers tonight, it is always challenging standing up front and centre and to sing in front of a half-lit house with little else to distraction from your vocals.
There were some great moments in Act 1 – the fun duet between Barbara Harrold and Martin Herford, the Bad, Bad Leroy Brown sung by Sam Haskell which was Good, Good and Matthew Pearsons rendition of Strangers in the Night which showed great phrasing and breath control. There were other moments when numbers were pitchy or a little shouty but we must remember that these songs have been made famous by true stars and we can’t all deliver a number like Frank Sinatra or Aretha Franklin.
One young man who showed great promise – if only he would relax a little was Ryan Stevens – I was praying for a smile or even a small grin because when we smile on stage we are inviting the audience to smile with us. Ryan has a good singing voice and with work on relaxing his body and letting us see it isn’t as torturous as he made it look we would all enjoy his performances far more – I really thought in his Duet in Act 2 – he would manage a small grin –I felt we were so close and I was rooting for him the whole way! – that little smile would make such a big difference.
Sandra Trott delivered both Georgia on My Mind and Misty with great confidence and was a steady and reliable performer who showed her strengths easily.
However, there were a couple of complete stars with Linda Raymonds ‘Stormy Weather’ which was a fabulous bluesy rendition in both feel and tone and this was then topped by her duet with Simon Haskell as Louis Armstrong with ‘Summertime’ – this was an outstanding delivery and as good as any professional performance I have ever seen.
Act 2 also delivered on many levels – opening with James Hughes interpretation of Minnie the Mooch complete with Audience participation which was a light relief after lots of traditional numbers in Act 1. James also delivered well in his duet with Simon and ‘Aint that a kick in the Head’. Lisa Rawlings was a sensational songstress in this act and not only sang all her numbers with great panache she acted them well – making it as interesting to watch as it was to listen to. Barbara also sang well and her vocals really took me back to the era of the songs she performed and without being insensitive, I was impressed that as a more mature woman she has little vibrato in her voice which is a usual trait of singers as we age.
There were many great numbers in Act 2 – particularly ‘Mack the Knife’ and ‘The Lady is a Tramp.’ I thought that as the show came to a close, there were some lovely moments but I must comment that James number ‘All the Way’ perhaps needed different staging. It was more of a Television level performance – almost too cool for school and whilst I don’t want to take anything away from him – I felt we were right at the front of the hall and could see every tiny move but those at the back may not have done – I would have taken this down to a follow spot or special and focused in on him without other on stage distractions.
Once again the highlight of this act was Simon Haskell and his delivery of ‘One for the Road’– the subdued lighting and staging was perfect.
This was a great evening with lots of great songs and some stunning performances. Congratulations to all involved.