The Stage – E3 Showcase Review
A review from The Stage of the E3 Artists Spring Showcase, written by Derek Smith
Entering Brighton’s fabulous Proud Cabaret venue, formerly the Hanbury Ballroom, a building with a 200-year history, you just know you are going to be thoroughly entertained. When compere for the evening, the very personable and professional David Hill launched into a Bay City Roller medley to get guests into the spirit, you knew it was time to brace yourself, sit back and just go with the flow. Some showcases struggle to generate much of an atmosphere not because of any lack of talent on show but just because the venue lacks intimacy – the opposite was true at the E3 Artists Spring 2014 Showcase.
First main act to take to the small, but perfectly adequate stage, was young male vocalist Chris Hide, a Pop Idol veteran who continues to tour around the UK. Performing just two songs here, this was an assured, relaxed set from a clearly versatile artist who can cover just about every musical genre. He doesn’t break sweat while singing, but looks supremely confident in his own abilities.
At just 17, female vocalist Lucy Kane, a graduate of Italia Conti, surely has a very bright musical future. If her appearance was stunning, shimmering in silver, her vocals certainly weren’t overshadowed, her second cover impressing more than her slightly pedestrian choice of opener – Young Hearts Run Free (Candi Staton). Most impressive though, perhaps, is that she is currently busy writing and recording her first album. Original creativity in such a young artist being something to celebrate.
Based on the island of Mallorca, Swede Ulf Bernstrom had jumped on a plane especially to appear at this event. Suited, booted, stylish and sporting glasses that Where’s Wally would have proud of, you realise immediately that this is an experienced entertainer. Opening with a cover of the great Michael Buble big band arrangement of Cry Me A River, he’s an old school professional in many ways, who begs audience interaction and feeds off it impressively. Working the room and mingling with guests as he sang his second number, the feel-good holiday island vibes he gives off are a bonus to his assured vocals. I’m guessing it’s hard to be miserable when you live on Mallorca.
The last time I saw fuller figured feisty female vocal trio, The Sundaes, perform at a trade showcase in sleepy Paignton, Devon, they looked a little out of their comfort zone. Here, though, they were totally in their element, cheeky, saucy and performing at full naughty throttle. Like watching a Beryl Cook painting burst into life on stage, this act is not for the faint-hearted, especially those in the front rows, but it’s fabulous fun and pretty unique. Managed by the E3 Group, the girls (aka Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla) are apparently working on a Beyonce tribute show. Why bother with The Saturdays then when you can watch The Sundaes?
Having already shown himself to be a wily entertainer when he kicked off the evening, compere David Hill’s own spot which opened the second half was further proof that he can gel with audiences without effort, keep their interest and soon put a smile on faces. Urging everyone to join in with the lyrics, Hill soon whipped up a party atmosphere, was loving every minute being on stage and rightly won enthusiastic applause at the end of what was a finely executed set.
Female vocalist, Jennie Castell, has performed on stages up and down the country since 2001, having been chorally trained from six years of age. As well as performing solo, she also fronts Sussex-based, four-piece wedding/party band, Reload. Opening here with a decent cover of New York State of Mind (Billy Joel), it was her second number, a “risky choice,” she admitted beforehand, that was to better showcase her full, very impressive vocal range. All too short an appearance, but still fine entertainment.
Described in the E3 Group’s publicity as, “one of the world’s most talented, versatile entertainers, pianist, comedian, singer and actor,” Kev Orkian had an awful lot to live up to as he took the stage. We didn’t see much acting, but in every other aspect, he was to fully live up to top billing. Playing to friends in the gallery, but with the ability to pull all audience members into his offbeat comedic world, he soon had this crowd in the palm of his hands. Add to that some original piano comedy (shades of Les Dawson) and an impressive, manically fast boogie-woogie finale on the keys to prove he is also a serious musician, and this was just about the complete comedy showcase performance. Some of his material is in wonderfully bad taste but that just adds to his appeal.
This was an intimate, hugely enjoyable showcase then in a perfect venue, one ‘donated’ free for the night for the event so as to raise funds for local children’s hospice, Chestnut Tree House. All those involved, including the artists performing here for free, deserve great credit. There’s a further three fund-raising events for different charities – dubbed The David Hill Experience – scheduled for 2014 at Proud Cabaret Brighton, and they all look well worth catching.
Link to original article; http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/39682/e3-artists-spring-2014-showcase