Tag Archives: Dale Page

Speckulation Acoustic Sessions: Michael Bruce

20 Jun

After the release of his acclaimed debut album Unwritten Songs earlier this year, Michael Bruce gathered together some established (West End) performers as well as newcomers to perform his songs as part of the Speckulation Acoustic Sessions at The Pheasantry.

Michael Bruce is one of the most talented and versatile contemporary composers and I’ve listened to his album more times than I’d ever admit publicly. It’s a perfect mix of ballads and  uptempo songs with clever lyrics, and they’re all extremely catchy. Therefore I was very much looking forward to this evening and I was not disappointed.

Michael was joined by Tori Allen-Martin, Paul Spicer, Amelia Adams Pearce, Phoebe Fildes, Ben Alyn Francis, Helena Blackman, Dale Page, Sam Edwards and Stef Booth.

The first song, My Kind of World, was sung by Tori Allen-Martin. Stunning voice and a great start to the evening!

Next up was Even Then, sung by Paul Spicer. It’s one of my favourite songs on the album, it’s so beautiful. Paul’s got a great voice and it was wonderful hearing him sing it live.

The next song, I Want A Man, shows how versatile a composer Michael Bruce is and that he can’t really be placed in one genre. Amelia Adams Pearce and Tori Allen Martin did a great job with this upbeat and witty song.

Looking Back is another favourite song of mine, ever since I’ve heard it at the Apollo concert two years ago. Phoebe Fildes has got a stunning voice and it blended so well with Ben Alyn Francis’.

Helena Blackman’s It’s Not Gonna Rain was, in one word,  incredible. Beautiful song and beautifully performed!

Phoebe Fildes came back on stage for the next song, Someplace Beyond the Moon. She’s got such a lovely tone to her voice and I think I actually prefer her version to the one on the album.

The last song of the first half was Money, Honey sung by Dale Page with Tori Allen-Martin, Phoebe Fildes, Paul Spicer and Michael Bruce. It’s a more jazzy song and Dale Page did a great job. It’s the only song I often skip when listening to the album, but I really liked it yesterday.

The second half started with Don’t Wanna Leave You Now, which was sung by the man himself. It’s a very catchy song and I loved the acoustic version of it.

After a rather dramatic stage entrance, Amelia Adams Pearce sang What Do You Do?. Written for a charity auction, this song had never been performed before, which is a shame, because it’s hauntingly beautiful.

Next up was Sam Edwards with Away. He’s another new talent and had sung the song at Michael Bruce’s album launch earlier this year. It’s a stunning song and Sam Edwards was wonderful, very strong voice.

Christmas songs in June? Why not 😉 First up was Stef Booth singing Children. It’s the song Michael Bruce won the Notes For The Stage competition with in 2007 and it’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Stef Booth has a wonderful voice, too.

Then Helena Blackman sang the rather cheeky This Christmas. Very funny song and witty lyrics.

Unwritten Song was sung by Paul Spicer. It’s my absolutely favourite song on the album, mainly because it’s the only one I could instantly relate to when I listened to it for the first time. Beautiful, moving lyrics and Paul Spicer almost moved me to tears with his interpretation.

The last song of the evening, The Musical Theatre Song, was sung by Michael Bruce again. It’s a hilarious song and was the perfect ending to a wonderful evening.

While the evening felt a bit short, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. Michael Bruce is definitely one to watch out for, and, after having already seen The Great British Country Fete last summer, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for seeing another full musical by him in the not too distant future.

You can buy Michael Bruce’s debut album Unwritten Song at Dress Circle or download it on iTunes.

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Spring Awakening, UK Tour

10 Jun

When Frank Wedekind’s play Frühlings Erwachen – Eine Kindertragödie was published in 1891 it caused a scandal and it wasn’t until 1906 that it was performed at the Berliner Kammerspiele under the direction of Max Reinhardt. For decades it had been banned or subjected to censorship due to its alleged obscene content.

While some people claim that the play is now dated, I couldn’t disagree more and this musical adaption shows that it is still as relevant as it was when Wedekind first wrote it. Suicide is one of the most common causes of death among teenagers, teenage pregnancies, peer pressure – it all still exists.

I must admit that I wasn’t won over by the musical when I saw it during it’s very short West End run a couple of years ago. I liked the songs, but it didn’t move me in any way. I’ve read the original play many times and it’s one of the most intense and thought-provoking plays I know, but the performances left me completely cold.

That, however, has changed now. I thought this cast was phenomenal. Victoria Serra (Wendla) has a lovely voice and was very believable. Both Billy Cullum (Moritz) and Jonathan Eio (Melchior) have strong voices, but is was their acting that impressed me most. It was so honest and sincere, I personally don’t know how they manage to go through all these emotion every day (or even twice a day). And Then There Were None, Don’t Do Sadness, Left Behind and Those You’ve Known were the highlights of the show for me.

James Benn (Hanschen) and Zachary Morris (Ernst) worked very well together, and for once there was no laughing during their scene in Act II.

I liked Anna McGarahan’s voice in The Dark I Know Well, it blended so well with Jill Armour’s (Ilse), but I still think that the staging of this song is dreadful. It just didn’t work for me and lost all its impact.

Daniel Buckley (Otto),  Natalie Green (Thea), Jess Mack (Anna), Dale Page (Georg), Jane Stanton (Adult Woman), Robert Eyles (Adult Male) were good too, though they have less to work with than the others.

The only weakness of the production is, in my opinion, the direction. Some of it works really well, but other scenes (such as the aforementioned The Dark I Know Well and the graveyard scene) just don’t and are awkward to watch. The talented cast make up for this, however, and I’m glad I saw it.

I did wonder though, to what extent the German surnames and their meanings are lost on an English audience. Not that it’s really important, it just crossed my mind.