Lauderdale House is one of those little cabaret spaces you will find throughout London. What makes it stand out is the amount of well-known musical theatre performers that grace the place and the way the house is embedded in the local community offering not only cabarets but also activities for families and children, exhibitions and other events.
This was my second visit to this venue having previously seen Stephen Ashfield’s cabaret there in 2011. What always strikes me first is the shape of the room in which the cabaret performances take place – it’s very narrow and long which in my eyes is rather unfortunate for cabaret gigs. Since there are no mics used for the performances the sound tends to gets worse the further back from the “stage” you sit (there is no stage as such – the performer simply stands or sits at the front of the room, accompanied by a piano). I managed to secure a place at the front on this occasion so there were no sound issues for me during the performance.
Valerie Kutko was the host of the afternoon and entertained the audience with two songs and some charming and funny anecdotes.
The support act on this occasion was American-born Kendra McMillan. Personally I didn’t enjoy her choice of songs a lot simply because they were mostly focused on acting and expression rather than pure singing. For me this works brilliantly in context of a show but can be a bit too deep for a cabaret. Too add up to it I quickly discovered that I’m no fan of the tone of Kendra’s voice – this, of course, is personal preference as well and I’m sure many in the audience really enjoyed her performance.
But on to the main act – Norman Bowman whose leading roles include Marius in Les Miserables, Sky in Guys and Dolls, Sam in Mamma Mia and Mack Sennett in the critically acclaimed Mack and Mabel at the Southwark Playhouse earlier this year to name just a few.
I have been lucky enough to see Norman in quite a few productions and he has never failed to amaze me. However, this was the first time I’ve watched him do a cabaret performance and I was curious to see how he would manage to entertain an audience with just songs and no show to go with them.
To put it short: Norman didn’t disappoint. From the first moment he stepped into the room he had everyone eating out of the palm of his hand. I loved the idea of walking down the middle aisle whilst singing “Oh what a beautiful morning” and greeting members of the audience on the way to the stage – this definitely helped to connect with the audience right from the start. The mix of songs ranged from some Sondheim to Carousel, Mack and Mabel, Parade and Witches of Eastwick. And all the while Norman bedazzled the audience with his boyish charm and his warm and down to earth personality. Some minor text glitches actually added to the enjoyment because they made the whole performance seem honest and real and not staged at all.
Personal favourites of the afternoon have to be “Agony” from Into the woods (performed brilliantly with the fantastic Robbie Scotcher), “Soliloquy” from Carousel and “Finishing the hat” from Sondheim’s Sunday in the park with George.
“I won’t send roses” took everyone back to the brilliant Mack and Mabel times this summer (and definitely made those who haven’t seen the show regret they’ve missed out) and the beautiful “Spring will be a little late” with Laura Pitt-Pulford was probably the most intimate moment of the whole performance. Laura and Norman have such a fantastic stage chemistry – it was impossible not to be drawn into the song.
The most intense moment of the afternoon has to be the outstanding rendition of “Soliloquy” from Carousel followed closely by the touching “Hard to speak my heart” from Parade.
The cabaret ended way too soon (my opinion) with the wonderful “Love is like a red red rose” from Robert Burns – nothing but a beautiful song and Norman’s voice, what more do I need?
All in all this was a delightful afternoon at Lauderdale House with the brilliantly talented Norman Bowman. Here’s hoping for more cabaret performances from Norman in the future. He has definitely proven that he has what it takes to entertain an audience with tales and songs. The Delfont Room next I say!
Oh what a beautiful morning (Oklahoma)
Sorry – Grateful (Company)
Finishing the hat (Sunday in the park with George)
Agony 1 (Into the woods), with Robbie Scotcher
I won’t send roses (Mack and Mabel)
Spring will be a little late (Frank Loesser), with Laura Pitt-Pulford
Who’s the man (Witches of Eastwick)
Hard to speak my heart (Parade)
Agony 2 (Into the woods), with Robbie Scotcher
Love is like a red red rose (Robert Burns)
For more info about Lauderdale House please visit http://www.lauderdalehouse.co.uk/.
Follow Norman on Twitter @normanbowman69
Thank you to Sally Eastwood for letting me use her photos!