Directed by James Williams and musical director David Laugharne, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama’s showcase for their students about to embark on the Yellow Brick Road to fame and fortune was an entertaining hour of song and speech with a flurry of dance along the way.
For those of us not directly involved in the industry, this is probably the closest we will get to be casting agents and, armed with this programme containing the performers’ biogs, it was fascinating to not only enjoy the performances but be talent scouts for just the briefest of moments. It was also humbling to see the results of study, rehearsal and practise in this wildly competitive genre.
The programme and performance was put together like a cabaret with chairs, the band at the rear of the stage, some umbrellas as lighting props and that was about it. So the focus was always on the performances which were nearly all solo but with the odd duet and several songs bringing in the Company ensemble.
First observation is that this is a very varied group of student performers, varied in styles, vocal ranges and, although it is dangerous ground in today’s PC world, visual appearance. However un-PC it may be to notice this no doubt casting agents do when fitting people into roles, so that is the life the students have chosen. For this review, I , of course, won’t.
Eimear O’Riordan opened the evening with “Requiem” from Dear Evan Hansen by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul which brought onto the stage all of the performers, joining in the song and then the programme smoothly morphed into Conor O’Rourke giving a cheeky, Irish lilting “hungry” speech from Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors with lots of eye contact and rapport with the studio audience.
Em Barrett then gave a punchy “Lost In The Brass” from Band Geeks by Mark Allen & Gaby Alter and it is worth noting how well prepared the Company was in ensuring they each kept their eyes on the performer when they were not themselves singing, smiling their support and appreciation.
A short speech called Ducks, inspired by Tommy Tiernan, was assertively given by Giulia Cipriani, leading into a real bigger hitter “Almost There” from Randy Newman’s The Princess and the Frog, with some nifty tap footwork.
Ciarán O’Driscoll gave a charming rendition of You Were After Poetry by Steven Bloomer, again with a good direct delivery to the invisible partner listener, and aptly this moved into a moody torch song “A Quiet Thing” from Flora and the Red Menace by Kander and Ebb, expressively sung by Kailee Ann Albitz sporting a chic 50s look.
Another speech to an invisible partner was The Big Bad Wolf by Joseph Arnone, delivered by Daniel White followed by a deliciously witty song and dance number “I Love Betsy” from Honeymoon in Vegas by Jason Robert Brown, from Tom Platt and the Company ensemble.
Maya Lopez changed the mood with a poignant Hidden by Laura Lindsay & Peter Carruthers, while Anna McManus sang a stop and listen “What Only Love Can See” from Chaplin The Musical by Christopher Curtis and then a darkly humorous All New People by Zach Braff from Em Barrett
The crowd-pleasing “The Living Years” showed off Daniel White’s singing credential and with the addition fo the company the & Company the Mike Rutherford & B A Robertson song delighted the audience.
Time for some fun from Tom Platt & Ryan Alexander with a sparky duet, A Special Relationship by the two chaps, the former English and the latter Canadian. The humour continued with Howie Michaels & the company giving a zesty “Man Up” The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker, Ma Stone and Robert Lopez.
Mood change again now for Eimear O’Riordan’s convincing monologue Misfits by Howard Overman and a chillingly cool and intense Blue Window by Craig Lucas from Kailee Ann Albitz.
Giulia Cipriani gave a nice sassy “Raise The Roof” from Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party followed by a smile-inducing Banksy by Katy Wix from Jodie Miccichè, another monologue to an invisible partner.
A splendidly jazzy performance from Maya Lopez of “I Want To Go To Hollywood” from Grand Hotel by Maury Yeston raised the temperature melding and mellowing down to Ryan Alexander’s “It All Fades Away” from The Bridges of Madison County by Jason Robert Brown.
In the showcase / audition platform Anna McManus’ heartfelt Precious Little Talent by Ella Hickson had a particular poignancy, quickly followed by Conor O’Rourke and Howie Michaels performing “Love Who You Love” from A Man Of No Importance by Stephen Flaherty Geiriau and Lynn Ahrens and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown by Clark Gesner.
Our finale was entrusted to Ciarán O’Driscoll with Let It Sing from Violet by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley with, of course, the Company joining in for a suitably collaborative ensemble ending.