Online stream from Crazy Coqs
Reviewed – 22nd October 2020
“the memorable songs and the impressive performances carry this funny and relatable take on the dating world”
The year is 2020, a pandemic has turned singletons everywhere horny (sound familiar?), and the musical ’First Date’ is here to find out if we can still believe in love!
In the Crazy Coqs bar we meet Aaron (Simon Lipkin) and Casey (Samantha Barks) on a blind date and setting eyes on each other for the first time. Queue a series of fantastically funny songs alighting on all the truisms of first dates from the friend you have lined up to fake an accident to the awkward pauses and who pays the cheque at the end of it all! The pair navigate small talk and their differences, to see whether this could be something. Our two daters are surrounded by a fantastic chorus who pop-up Grecian-esque as bartenders, exes, bad boys and even Google embodied!
The songs, written by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, are consistently brilliant. There are cabaret numbers, comedy numbers, ballads, duets and a lovely five-person opening. Accompanied by a live piano, the songs are well-written, well-sung and all great fun! The script (Austin Winsberg) between songs, however, is not up to the standard of the song writing at all. Whilst there’s some promise in there, it is overly long and slow, and needs some serious tightening up to meet the quality which is so evident in the lyric writing.
The cast are really strong, directed by Dean Johnson. They all boast fantastic voices, brought together with musical direction from John Winstone. Barks and Lipkin sing wonderfully, working hard on a slow script, although lacking in chemistry between them. Some favourite characters in the panopoly that the chorus play include Nick McLean’s Reggie and Danielle Steers’ dead grandma! The shining star of the whole show is Oscar Conlon-Morrey who is irresistibly funny in every role he plays: a feast to watch, even when he is just making comments during the internal (a lovely touch). I could’ve watch him all day.
Unfortunately the quality of the music and performers is let down by the audio (Matt Ide) and videography (Sam Diaz) quality, both of which are wildly inconsistent, so much so that they are disruptive to the piece*. The green screen backdrops are really fun and work really well, but in the space itself the lighting is bizarre and doesn’t respond to lighting changes mentioned in the script, silence buzzes, and it would be impossible to watch this through without regularly adjusting the volume up and down on your television or laptop. Given that it is presented like a film, it needs to have the basic production values of one. It is such a shame, given the quality of the actors and the material.
Production quality aside, the memorable songs and the impressive performances carry this funny and relatable take on the dating world.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography courtesy Lambert Jackson
* This show was reviewed on an advance link so sound and video quality may be improved on the released production
Online stream from Crazy Coqs
Last ten shows reviewed by Amelia:
Off The Top With Jason Kravits
Crazy Coqs Live At Zédel
Reviewed – 13th January 2020
“He fills the intimate space of the Crazy Coqs with a low key, but dynamic energy”
Jason Kravits is a successful American character actor who obviously enjoys giving himself a bit of a challenge, because his cabaret show Off The Top is ninety minutes of improvisation taken from audience suggestions written down on slips of paper. Does this performing without the safety net of a full script work? Heck, yes.
Off The Top really begins while we’re settling into our chairs in the elegant, Art Deco inspired decor of the The Crazy Coqs cabaret space downstairs at the Brasserie Zédel in Piccadilly Circus. On the table in front of us are slips of paper and pencils. We are invited to drop these slips of paper into a fish bowl handed round by the master of ceremonies, on which we have written responses to “A Place,” “A Thing,” “A Short Phrase,” “Words to Live By” and “The Last Text Message You Sent or Received.” Then Kravits appears, creates a character made up on the spot consisting of an audience member’s middle name plus a place name, and jumps on stage.
Since his show every night is different, I won’t hesitate to give spoilers by saying that on this particular night, we were treated to the life story of the not-so-famous Matthew Discovery from Tulsa, Oklahoma (there were quite a few Americans and Canadians in the audience). Discovery himself is nattily dressed in a plaid suit with lilac shirt and purple tie, and while he draws slips out of the fish bowl to describe the circumstances of his early life in Tulsa’s “wet sock” factory surrounded by pussycats and lifeboats, we find out that this wannabe performer of the cabaret scene can really sing. With the backing of a nicely mellow three piece band (MD/pianist John Thorn, bass Jonny Gee and drums Sophie Alloway) Discovery might treat us at any moment to a Sinatra like riff on “health, beauty and love” or a song about Grimsby that includes fish and donkeys. A version of an “unknown” song by Sondheim is instantly recognisable. But the barnstormer is the duet sung with guest star Ruth Bratt as the couple fondly recall their attempts to connect given that she’s a bigamist attempting to become a “trigamist”. (What on earth was written on that slip of paper?) In short, Kravits’ show, based on the rough sketch of a performer following his dream, is a hilarious world tour that visits Tulsa and the Taj Mahal, with brief detours to Venice; Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, and yes, Grimsby. The climax of the story takes place in Croydon, naturally, during a street performance that almost gets the hapless Discovery arrested, while creating a major diplomatic incident with Canada. By this point the audience is breathless with laughter.
Kravits makes all this acting by the seat of his pants look effortless. He fills the intimate space of the Crazy Coqs with a low key, but dynamic energy. Sometimes he’ll slip the audience the side eye when presented with a particularly outrageous word or phrase from the bits of paper, but then he kind of mentally shrugs and launches into a vocal rendition liberally sprinkled with F words and S words anyway. He’s had us all in the palms of his expressive hands from the start. When we leave, ninety minutes later, his brilliant, made up on the spot songs are still on our lips, and our stomach muscles still aching from non-stop laughter.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Danny Kaan
Off The Top With Jason Kravits
Crazy Coqs Live At Zédel until 19th January
Previously reviewed at this venue: