Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton

A one night only chance to see Zak and some of his talented friends perform to raise money for The Phoenix Project which was set up to maintain and improve The Duchess Theatre after it was burnt down in 2003.

This was a massive project for a 16 year old to organise, as there is so much more than meets the eye to organise and arrange when you are putting on something of this scale.

Knowing Zak as I do, he is a total professional and strives for perfection in all that he does and I know that he would want me to be as honest as I can be in my review, so here goes!

This last week there have been a few things that had to be changed at the last minute for this show. One artists having to pull out which meant a last minute shuffle and filling in of content. Matthew Leigh Biddulph, who was to have been the compere was substituted by David Allen and Matt moved behind the drum kit in the live band.

The show was called Zak Scott and Friends and when your name is the title of the show, this will always add pressure to anyone and with all of the above, and his desire to make this evening a success, I think this affected Zak in the first half of the show, as when he was on stage, he looked nervous and his singing was affected by not hitting the notes that he would normally have hit. Notes were shortened when they should have been held further, but when Zak did hold the notes, the song flowed so much better. As an actor he should have disguised the nervousness that you could see in his eyes,and believe me I have seen Zak act and he is a damn fine actor as well as a fine singer.

Zak needed to stop looking down so much when singing, and smile more, which finally in the second part, he did and boy did that make a difference. Zak came to life when he sung "Electricity" from "Billy Elliott" and he looked like he was finally starting to enjoy being on that stage, and I started to relax as well. His duet in the second half with Oliver Wheddon, of "You and Me" from "The Book Of Mormon" really highlighted Zak's and Oliver's fun side, and they delivered a lovely slice of musical comedy which everyone loved. Zak also delivered, again in the second half, two very emotive performances in "Till I Hear You Sing" from "Love Never Dies" and the final song, which gave me goosebumps, "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables"

Speaking to Oliver, who by the way is only 15, last week, he confessed that he was most worried about the choreography in the show and he did seem to have a bit of a problem with this but hey, not all good singers can dance can they? The highlight for me with Oliver was "Empty Chairs" from "Les Miserables", absolutely spot on, mate!

Also among Zak's friends were Holly Pilgrim who delivered a lovely version of "Tomorrow" from "Annie" as well as a mischievously good version of "Naughty" from "Matilda". Emily Horner who delivered another emotionally charged version of "Tell Me It's Not true" from my fave musical, "Blood Brothers", Ellie Simmonds who sang "No One But You" from the musical"We Will Rock You" and "Part Of Your World" from "The Little Mermaid".

Drama was provided by Showcase Drama Group. I enjoyed the comedy of "Lunch On A Train" more than "The Witches" which was I felt a bit too dark for the evening. Dance was covered by Rosie, Kirsty and Cara and also a freestyle section, which I really enjoyed, as did most of the ladies in the house, performed by dancer, Jamie Bucanan.

There were four pieces performed by everyone, my favourite being the final piece called "Revolting Children" which was great fun track from the musical "Matilda".

David Allen, as compere, managed to move the proceedings along smoothly with his easy. likeable personality. Having performed the job of compere in the past in shows in Nottingham, I know that this is not an easy job, and David managed to make it look easy.

The live band sounded crisp and provided a perfect backing for the singers.

Much is made of the youth of today and the media are all too ready to paint teenagers in a bad light, highlighting the wrong that is done by the small minority, but when you see something like this show, you really do see what teenagers can do, and they should receive more praise for stuff like this. A great bunch of incredibly talented teenagers, providing a varied evening of entertainment, and giving something back to the world of entertainment at The Duchess and the community.

And on a final note, a massive pat on the back for Zak for getting it all together. This kind of show, with the amount of different performers would be a mammoth task for any professional company, but Zak, along with the brilliant support acts and family and friends provided a night of memorable music and entertainment which I hope has raised a good deal of cash for The Duchess. You should all be proud of yourself!

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