Saturday, 29 May 2010

In The Spotlight Songs from the musicals with Faye Tozer

In The Spotlight
Songs from the musicals
with Faye Tozer

Assembly Hall Theatre
Tunbridge Wells
29th May 2010


Host and Vocalist: Faye Tozer
accompanied by
Annabel King
Rebecca Wicking
Mark Daley
Christopher Finn
Tom Warner
Ellie Cobb
Lindsay Shaw
Charlotte Gale
Will Knights
Tom Shilcock
and Dancer, vocalist and resident director
David Kemp

Lets get the ironic title out of the way first i.e. In The Spotlight. Ironic because the spotlight control (or rather lack of it) did not help this show one little bit. I lost count of the number of occasions, in both halves of the show when the singing artist was, out of the spotlight, half in the spotlight or in the spotlight but in a light which was clearly continually shaking. Often in shows you get the odd spotlighting issue but it was all over the place, annoying, distracting and, lets face it not too professional either.

In The Spotlight Songs From The Musicals with Faye TozerBut that wasn't the only distraction in this show. Theatres have to decide where they stand in the line of a person with a mental disability who makes so much noise throughout the show that it is affecting the concentration and enjoyment of the other theatre goers and the concentration of the artists.

This unfortunate person was, granted, at the back of the auditorium. The noise however was so loud that it could be heard above all the songs, even sitting at the front! On a few occasions I noticed it affected the performers and a couple were trying to stifle laughs. Laughing, I hasten to add, not at disability but at the frustration of the situation. No matter how professional you are having to endure such noise in the middle of a serious vocal piece must be so annoying.

Look I know about mental health issues but leaving such a situation unchecked because of a fear of disability discrimination should not go unchecked.

If I had a mobile phone and it kept ringing I would be told to turn it off. If I had a kid who wouldn't shut up I would be told to do something about it. Finally if I caused a disturbance that interrupted the performers and ruined the enjoyment of other theatre goers I would be asked to leave.

So what's different in this situation? Only that the person generating the noise has a disability. That cannot be right.

I do feel for the person with the health issue but when they are generating so much noise themselves it can't be that they can be absorbing the content of the show either.

If I get to a stage in the future where I cannot control the noise I generate I would not want any carer of mine to put me in a position where I am ruining the enjoyment of a show for others. All I would then be doing is drawing more attention to myself? I would effectively replace the show.

There's a message for theatres here. Decide on your policy on noise in shows. Either a no disturbance policy exists across the board for able bodied and disabled or we have a free-for-all where we can scream, shout and do what we like. I know which I'd prefer!

Anyway somewhere amongst the wobbly lighting and noise distractions there was a show......

Let's talk about Faye Tozer first though. Do I admit to being a former Steps fan many moons ago? Probably not a good idea but we did make the journey to watch them live once (well alive and dancing anyway) at the Chelmsford Spectacular. As you may have gathered it was a mainly lip-synced affair. I hate lip syncing and I think it ought to be outlawed. The rubbish excuse regularly used is that it's not possible to sing and dance at the same time.

Actually in Steps to be fair there was some truth in this statement but it would be better reworded. They lip synced because a couple of members could dance a darned site better than they could sing.

Anyway we watched the final live concert on Sky. Of course Lee Latchford-Evans, Lisa Scott-Lee and Faye weren't aware this was their last concert until just before the start when Ian "H" Watkins and Claire Richards announced they were off to make their fortune elsewhere.

Faye Tozer as glamorous as always after Spotlight Songs from the musicalsAs devastated as Faye was after the group split was though in the long run it has probably been the best thing that ever happened to her.

In Steps, despite arguably having the best voice and vocal range, it seemed she had to always play second fiddle to Claire who appeared to be cast as the lead singing female.

Anyway Faye, picked herself up, dusted herself down and put the days of cheesy pop and lip-syncing firmly behind her. She has gone on to become what is probably the most successful former member of the group.

We had already had the privilege of watching Faye sing around 5 years ago in Eastbourne when she performed the one-woman-musical Tell Me On A Sunday. That was an incredible vocal performance and as that is also a very emotional story it also showed off her acting ability well too. That show was before my reviews here started. I may create a placeholder post though for that show, if I can find the date. But it was a five star performance. Faye is also a delight to meet, always really friendly, and never rushes anybody who has gone to see her.

So we already knew her singing and acting ability so how did tonight's performance go?

Well let's be honest, although a few expected it, this is not a Faye Tozer dominated show. Yes she is "Host and headliner" and accordingly she does "tell the story" in between songs, performing in many herself. But essentially this is a company performance of West End players performing west end hits.

Faye's own performance in this show does not disappoint. As always she looked incredibly glamorous and her vocals were lovely. I loved the performance she did with Will Knights in Taylor The Latte Boy / Taylor's Response, again this brings her acting abilities to the fore.

Rebecca Wicking was, for me, the other shining star of the evening. Only her incredible vocal range could compete with the noise that was still being generated in the audience. For a petite young lady she has a very big voice!

In format In The Spotlight is very similar to Gotta Sing Gotta Dance produced by Eastbourne's artistic director, Chris Jordan. A series of west end hits linked by dialogue. With that being such a super production I cannot fail to compare the two.

It doesn't quite make it in equalling the quality though. The theme in this show is "love". The dialogue linking the songs together, whilst beautifully delivered by Faye, is nowhere near as interesting as Jordan's creative writings.  I would rather have seen and heard far more of the well known hits than lesser known ones too. I expect many without a programme would have been stumped as to which musicals many of the songs came from.

With many of the songs being slower numbers there was little chance of seeing much in the way of impressive choreography either.

However there are some touches of genius amongst all this. There are medleys in both parts of the show which have complicated routines with different company members singing different songs. These are impressively delivered. The Strictly Not Come Dancing part of the show is a particularly funny part of the show, which raised many a laugh.

Would I recommend the show? Absolutely, I have a feeling that without the distraction of constant auditorium racket and a spotlight crew who can put the light on the performer and leave it there you will get a more confident performance. With the professional "the show must go on" approach adopted by performers I think you'd be hard pushed to get any cast member to publicly admit these distractions affected them. But sitting in the audience you could see the utter frustration etched on the faces at times.

Only a couple of hundred people went to see this show in Tunbridge Wells. If anybody is contemplating seeing this but doubtful of the ex-Steps star's ability to sing live why not give Faye a chance? You may just be surprised at how talented she is.

Faye Tozer was, in my opinion, wasted in Steps and since their demise she has, justifiably, gained rave reviews from her stage performances in productions like "Tell Me On A Sunday" and "Over the Rainbow" the story of Eva Cassidy's Life. She has also been involved in many straight acting roles including Sheila Wendice in "Dial 'M' for Murder".
4 out of 5 for In The Spotlight Songs from the musicals with Faye Tozer
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