Tag Archives: Laura Pitt-Pulford

Cabaret in the House – Norman Bowman – Lauderdale House, 11th November 2012

16 Nov

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!

Set list
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
Soliloquy (Carousel)
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!

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Mack and Mabel at the Southwark Playhouse – July 12th 2012

14 Jul

The Southwark Playhouse has proven to be one of London’s top addresses for high quality fringe theatre with shows like Parade and Floyd Collins. Their latest musical theatre production is Mack and Mabel, a show that tells the relationship between Hollywood director Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand who became one of his biggest stars in the late 1910s.

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Music and lyrics for this show were written by Jerry Herman and the book by Michael Stewart, revised by Francine Pascal. The original 1974 Broadway production starred Bernadette Peters and Robert Preston and received eight Tony Award nominations.

The Vault is a former railway tunnel which has been transformed into a unique and atmospheric performing space. And while I can’t imagine watching a feel-good and happy show in there, the place is perfect for a show that does well with a gloomy or melancholic setting.

I really like the U-Shape staging they’ve done for this show. But I’d definitely choose the centre rows over the rows on either side of the performing area as I guess the view might be slightly restricted on the sides.

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The only real downside of this theatre are the ridiculously uncomfortable seats and the slightly damp air which makes concentrating on the show a slight challenge after a while.

Norman Bowman is stepping into the role of movie director Mack Sennett. His portrayal is intense and gripping and had me on the edge of my seat throughout the show. Mack certainly is no character that vows himself into the audience’s hearts. He’s driven by his passion for making movies and it’s hard for him to accept that there might be something else in life that is more important. Norman’s Mack seems almost haunted by his one and only ambition: To make people laugh. The fact that someone who seems unable to love and who is simply not very likeable is so dedicated to bringing people joy with his movies is one of the features of Mack that I found most interesting. And despite all that, Norman manages to make me feel for Mack who slowly realises that he actually does love Mabel but is unable to properly express his feelings until it’s too late.

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Laura Pitt-Pulford gives an outstanding performance as Mabel Normand, the sandwich delivery girl who becomes a movie star. She brings out a vulnerability in Mabel that makes it impossible not to love her. I especially liked the on stage chemistry between her and Norman. Those two work exceptionally well together.

The third stand out performance in this show is definitely Stuart Matthew Price as Frank Capra. He manages to really shine in a part that could be drowned out by the two leads if played by an actor with just an average stage presence. Just one minor grudge: I wish he would get to sing more – it’s a shame to “waste” such a beautiful voice.

The rest of the performers are without exception perfectly cast. There is no weak link on stage (except for a rather rebellious egg). It was good to see Steven Serlin again – Saturday Night Fever seems like ages ago! And big thumbs up for Jessica Martin. Her facial expressions during the silent movie scenes were hilarious and I generally loved her portrayal of Lottie Ames.

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Mack and Mabel is yet another example for a high class fringe show that doesn’t have to hide behind the big West End productions. With a fantastic cast, a lovely score (“I won’t send roses” has to be one of the most beautiful and truthful love songs ever written) and a small yet very effective set.

As for the story itself: I think it’s a well told romance between two people who couldn’t be more different when it comes to their ideas of a relationship. My only criticism would be that the whole story is slightly obvious from the start. You can guess how the show is going to end pretty easily after the first few minutes. This one has the “no happy ending” stamp printed all over its cover.
But that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of Mack and Mabel. I had a wonderful time and can’t recommend this show enough. Please do consider watching this one over one of the big West End musicals and show your support for fringe theatre. You won’t be disappointed.

For more info and to book tickets go to http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-vault/mack-and-mabel/

Photos by http://www.annabelverephotography.com