Earlier this month, Adam Blanshay Productions and The Theatre Cafe launched their collaboration The Theatre Channel. I wrote about how the project came about and previewed the series here. The series continues with the second episode premiering later tonight. I was lucky enough to go to a preview where some of the cast and creators spoke about this episode. Here's what to expect from the second episode of The Theatre Channel.
Episode 2 launches on October 30th so there is only one theme that would fit the bill...Summer, I mean Halloween. To make a good Halloween special there is a fine line between being too scary and too panto. Luckily, this episode gets the balance just right creating a brilliant mix of some of the most terrifying shows to ever grace the West end and Broadway (Viva Forever is notably absent).
Let's clear one thing up right away - this is not your normal Halloween show. The numbers are classy and not as tacky as you might expect. Songs from Dracula, Jekyll & Hyde, Beetlejuice, Young Frankenstein, Carrie and The Rocky Horror Show all get The Theatre Channel treatment. Some of the West ends finest lend their immeasurable talents to these numbers including Jordan Shaw singing 'Transylvania Mania' and a fantastic duet from Bradley Jaden and Sophie Isaacs on 'Life After Life' with Jaden relishing the chance to embrace a more sinister side than usual.
Ria Jones delivers a delightful mix of camp and evil playing as The Witch from Into The Woods to perform 'Last Midnight'. Josh Piterman performs 'The Confrontation' from Jekyll & Hyde, channelling both characters in a twisted but brilliant portrayal that speaks volumes for his acting abilities. Meanwhile the always fabulous Aimie Atkinson shows off her insane vocal range with a note perfect 'Dead Mom' from Beetlejuice. Special mention for the beautiful staging for this performance.
If you ever wondered what it would look like if George Washington did the 'Time Warp' from The Rocky Horror Show, you're in luck as Trevor Dion Nicholas relishes in leading the ensemble and a load of extras, doing the iconic routine inside the cafe, on the street and even on the roof. Also look out for a brilliant cameo from a theatrical legend.
All of the performances in this episode are sensational, but there is one in particular that everybody will be talking about. Linzi Hateley. Linzi originated the role of Carrie in the musical of the same name. When it transferred to Broadway it became one of the biggest musical flops of all time, closing after just five performances. Linzi hasn't been able to revisit the show since, so it is a very big deal that she now performs as Carrie's mother singing the beautiful 'When there's no one'. I had never actually heard this song before, but wow - what an absolute gem of a song. Linzi sings it with incredible authenticity and passion. The emotion transfers through the screen and when the tears start falling down her face, you are right there with her. One of the greatest performances you will witness this year. Stick around after the credits for an interesting and insightful behind the scenes interview where Linzi talks about her feelings towards Carrie, how she found out she got the role and the significance of the ring she was wearing in the performance.
While each episode features an array of performers, the glue in this series are 'The Cafe Four' comprising of the supremely talented Alyn Hawke, Emily Langham, Sadie-Jean Shirley and Alex Woodward. Appearing in every episode, they show their versatility (as well as a lot of skin in this chilly episode) and prove why they are sure to be forces to be reckoned with in years to come.
If episode one kicked off the series with an incredibly strong start, episode two picked it up and ran with it. To say this is a massive step up from an already impressive premise would be an understatement. The fact all of these performances are filmed in the cafe itself is an amazing thing to get your head around considering how drastically and brilliantly the setting is transformed for each of these performances.
What makes this series so special is a combination of the creativity of the small space used, the challenge of pushing performers out of their comfort zone, and the pure joy and love for the industry that pours out of the screen from everybody involved in this project - performers, producers. Literally everybody - if this year has taught us anything, it's to not take the things we love for granted and you really feel everybody involved with this has savoured every moment making it.
The idea behind this series is to push performers out of their comfort zones and have them sing something that is not part of their usual repertoire. In a post screening Q&A, it was revealed that Aimie Atkinson was originally considering an Elphaba song but that would be too obvious. I asked the performers what this process was like. Sophie Isaacs commented how nice it was to learn a new song, particularly a classy intelligent number. Aimie Atkinson liked the fact she got to sing a song from a role she would never otherwise get the chance to play on stage.
The creative team behind the series have said how they are enjoying using these episodes as a time capsule for what has been a strange and incredibly difficult period for all in the industry. They talked about the constant need to up the standard and make each episode better than the last, taking it somewhere else each time. Comparing the times we are living in to the production of the episode and particularly Linzi Hateley's journey with her performance and feelings towards the show, they called it a cathartic process, stating that performances like hers help with the healing - a really wonderful sentiment and a real statement as to why theatre is so crucial to the health and wellbeing of so many people around the world.
So how do you top a phenomenal and, quite frankly, flawless episode like this?
Episode three lands on November 27th and it is a rock special! The episode will feature Shan Ako performing 'I'll Cover You (Reprise)' from Rent, Alex Gaumond singing 'Le Monde est Stone' from Starmania, Rob Houchen singing 'Gethsemene' from Jesus Christ Superstar, Francesca Jackson singing 'Forgiven' from Jagged Little Pill, Aisha Jawando singing 'Acid Queen' from Tommy, John Owen-Jones singing 'Pity the child' from Chess. Some incredible names on this episode and, on a personal note, three of my all time favourite songs. This is an episode I am very much looking forward to. If it's even half as good as the first two episodes have been, it is going to be fantastic.
All episodes are available to purchase and view on demand from thetheatrecafe.co.uk/channel. Once purchased, you are able to view each episode an unlimited amount of times, and believe me, you're going to want to watch each one more than once.