Friday, 30 October 2009

Voulez Vous The Abba Story Review Congress Theatre Eastbourne 30th October 2009

Voulez Vous
The Abba Story
30th October 2009
Congress Theatre

Bjorn Ulvaeus: Gary Birtles
Agnetha Falstkog: Emma Parker
Anni-Frid Lyngstad: Ruby Turner
Benny Anderson: Alan Thompson


When you talk about regularly touring Abba tribute bands Bjorn Again and Voulez Vous are probably the two which will come to mind first.

Each band has it's own loyal following. As to which is the best it's down to individual preference. We've only seen Bjorn again on TV whilst we have been to see Voulez Vous umpteeen times over the years and nearly always thoroughly enjoyed the show.

I say nearly always because several years ago we saw Voulez Vous at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. The two regular female band members were unable to appear and had been replaced at short notice. It was awful. Actually absolutely awful - badly sung, wooden choreography - just plain awful.

Fortunately we have been to see Voulez Vous many times since then with the more familiar faces of Joanne Edwards (Agnetha) and Lori Holland (Anni-Frid) and, as always, performances were incredible.

So it was with some trepidation that we went to Eastbourne this year in the knowledge that not 1 or 2 but 3 of the 4 members had changed for the current production.

Other than that one bad show in Bexhill we have never seen a show without Joanne. She is such a superb Agnetha it felt like going to look at a reliable used car but without a steering wheel!

Anyway I don't think I need to cover the songs - everybody knows Abba's hits. What's important is the presentation and singing ability.

Voulez Vous have always taken pride in a professional set and in recent years a video backdrop has helped convey the Abba story. The final effect is very effective and impressive with the video perfectly synchronized to the on stage activity and vocals.

Raising the drums and bass guitar players on huge shiny platforms works well and is better than having these vital band members hidden at the back of the stage.

So here we go with the verdict on the four "Abba" members with the newcomers first.
Gary Birtles as Bjorn. Our personal verdict was that Gary is the best Bjorn that Voulez Vous have ever had. Not only is he a great vocalist but he actually looks the part too.

100_2097_edited-1 The same sentiments have to go to Ruby Turner as Anni-Frid. I'm not taking anything away from Lori Holland who always delivers a brilliant vocal performance but Ruby did seem not only to be able to equal the vocals but definately had the edge in the lookalike department.

So far so good then that just leaves Emma Parker. Does this replacement "steering wheel" keep this Abba vehicle safely on the road? Joanne is a hard act to match.

But Emma turns out to be a terrific Agnetha. She has beautiful vocals and in the height department she is probably more of a height-a-like than Joanne. Her dancing's great too although we did miss the facial expressions that Joanne delivers so well in her performances.

In fact this combination of Emma and Ruby makes you feel like these two have worked together before.
And thats because they have!

Having done a little research I discovered that Emma and Ruby are usually seen together in another Abba tribute band "Bjorn To Be Abba". They may not be as well known as Voulez Vous and Bjorn again but if you take a look at their web site you'll see they are equally as busy and have toured far and wide.

Incidentally to equal things out and to be fair to all Voulez Vous's official site can be found here

Last but not least Benny Andersson is, as always, played by Alan Thompson who due to habit has now probably turned into a Benny-a-like forever. Joking apart, Alan was as good as ever and was it our imagination or did he seem to be a bit more "chilled out" and a lot less "serious" on this tour? Certainly he seemed much more relaxed - especially when clowning around as the curtain fell at the end.
So the overall verdict is that, as is (nearly) always the case, Voulez Vous delivered a 5 star performance.
The new castings, whether temporary or permanent, are excellent choices. Certainly Bjorn To Be Abba is a tribute group we will now keep an eye on in the future.
With over 1000 people on their feet the band received a great ovation from an appreciative Eastbourne audience many of whom had been dancing wherever there was room to move!

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