Review by Daz Gale
It's fair to say Carrie Hope Fletcher has become one of the biggest names in musical theatre over the last few years. With many strings to her bow including vlogger and bestselling author, it's surprising to learn she hasn't gone on a concert tour before. Thankfully that wrong has been righted with the deeply personal and rather unique 'An Open Book'. Will the perhaps unconventional approach to this storytelling narrative work well on the stage or will it be lost in translation?
Carrie Hope Fletcher has proven herself to be reliably consistent performer with her turns in musicals including The Addams Family, Heathers, Les Miserables and even managing to bring something impressive to Cinderella. This last year has seen her take on some varied and unpredictable roles from a straight play in The Caucasian Chalk Circle to her (brilliant) panto debut in Sleeping Beauty. Ahead of a return to the West End in new comedy play The Crown Jewels, Carrie is bringing ‘An Open Book’ to venues up and down the country. I caught the show at the beautiful Birmingham Symphony Hall – and while each show is going to be unique in its own right, this was the tale of that particular evening.
The concept of ‘An Open Book’ sees Carrie tell stories from her life and career, even if they are hard to talk about or embarrassing. What makes each concert unique from the last is the audience get to dictate the stories told, and in turn, the setlist, through a vote. While there are some fixed points that will remain the same in every show, more than half of it is determined by the audience with Carrie checking the results live on a laptop. This close connection and interaction feels the perfect vehicle for Carrie who has always managed to give a personable approach to any role she plays.
Stories selected on this particular show included an icy story which led to a performance of ‘Monster’ from Frozen, an opportunity to tell an embarrassing story about her famous brother Tom before leading in to her favourite McFly song ‘Bubblewrap’ and a satisfying audience vote whose story led into Carrie revisiting ‘Pulled’ which she had previously performed in The Addams Family.
The unpredictability and versatility of the setlist led to an excitingly varied evening with Carrie hilariously revisiting her teenage angst years and her love for My Chemical Romance with a medley of songs from them and Fall Out Boy while of course there was more than a smattering of musical theatre songs though perhaps not the ones people were expecting.
Instead of taking audiences through favourite numbers Carrie had performed in shows, the choice of musical inclusions was more thought out and only sung for a reason. Carrie revisited her time in Les Miserables, not by putting Eponine and Fantine’s big numbers together but instead bringing ‘On My Own’ together with her personal favourite from the show ‘Stars’ as she announced she is hoping to play Javert next. Corn Nuts in the audience were delighted as Carrie recounted the day she found out a new song was being written for Veronica in Heathers as she closed act one with a rousing ‘I Say No’ complete with brilliant audience interaction. Also included were numbers from shows Carrie has not performed in (yet) with inclusions from Sister Act and a particular highlight in ‘I’d Rather Be Me’ from Mean Girls.
It is safe to say Carrie could sing pretty much anything as she proved time and time again throughout this concert. An incredibly gifted performer, her vocals were frequently outstanding, almost taking the roof off of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. Her ability to act through song brings even more depth to the numbers, while always retaining her humanity and authenticity, never losing the connection both with the source material and the audience.
The response to Carrie’s nine books (so far) has shown what a fantastic storyteller she is, and here she managed to bring that to a new medium in this meticulously crafted show. Weaving a narrative through song as she told her own story is hard enough – given this narrative never wavered even with the unpredictability of a changing setlist is even more impressive and showed how much care and consideration had been taken when creating this show. In the hands of others, a concept such as this may have failed considerably but with Carrie, it soared.
In the fittingly titled ‘An Open Book’, Carrie Hope Fletcher comes across warm and genuine, unashamedly wearing her heart on her sleeve. To anyone who has been lucky enough to speak to Carrie off-stage, they will tell you this is a fair representation of who she is as a person. I for one have always admired her for how vocal she is (in more ways than one) and her openness when it comes to highs and lows in her life. In that respect, she has beautifully translated this to the stage, allowing every single person in the audience to feel a personal and intimate connection to her – the power of this cannot be understated, nor can the skill it takes to pull this off.
It would have been very easy for Carrie Hope Fletcher to do a standard by-numbers sow for her first concert tour – audiences would have loved her show regardless. So the fact she has done something so bold and creative with ‘An Open Book’ truly is awe-inspiring. It was a risk but one that paid off massively. Carries stunning vocals, charisma and unrivalled ability to tell a story made this a masterclass performance and a show like no other I have seen before. Another example of why Carrie is considered to be an incredible performer, there really is no end to her talents in this refreshingly open show full of heart. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter has in store for her.
There Are Worse Things I Could Do
Stars/On My Own
I Say No
Another Chapter (Reprise)
I’d Rather Be Me
Thnks Fr Th Mmrs/I’m Not Okay (I promise)
The Secret of Happiness
Wherever He Ain’t
The Age Of Not Believing
Someone Who Loves Me
The Life I Never Led
Setlist varies at each show on the tour
Carrie Hope Fletcher continues her ‘An Open Book’ tour across the UK until 11th June. Dates and tickets from http://www.cuffeandtaylor.com/
Photos by Danny Kaan