A Night at the Musicals – Southwark Playhouse

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writers: Christina Modestou and Rebecca Hickey

Musical Director: Richard Weatherall

Cabaret is back! After many months’ absence from the stage, Christina Modestou has brought her new cabaret show, running across several Sunday evenings, to Southwark Playhouse following a previous performance at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield. Joined by a rota of special guests, on 18 October A Night at the Musicals welcomed Oliver Tompsett and two recent graduates but Modestou’s show stands apart with its focus on younger musicals.

With a biographical frame co-written by Rebecca Hickey, it all begins in the Welsh centre of dramatic achievement, Port Talbot, where the young Christina is cast in a variety of school plays before taking the audience on a whistle-stop tour of the musicals she has auditioned for but is yet to be in, the rounds of casting calls, the cabaret classic device of roles she will never play and, finally, a celebration of the shows that have shaped her career.

The school years covers musical theatre classics, I Could Have Danced All Night which Modestou admits is not her usual style, As If We’d Never Said Goodbye and a medley of numbers from Sweeney Todd, Les Miserables, Fame and Grease, all of which Modestou sings beautifully, but it is her focus on aspirational roles when the show really gets interesting and when that powerful rock voice is given full reign.

Tunes from Ghost the Musical, Come from Away and Wicked move the show in a new direction, away from the classic cabaret fare of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber or Lerner and Lowe to some of the new work of the last couple of decades. Act Two opens with Fabulous Baby from Sister Act before Modestou performs incredible medleys from the shows that shaped her including We Will Rock You and every number in Six. When the night concludes with Don’t Forget Me from the fictional Bombshell musical in the TV series Smash it has been a treat to see such variety and freshness in the song choices.

The guest stars add their own sparkle as Modestou champions very early career singers whose own entry into the industry has been stunted by theatre closures. Kyle Birch graduated this year from the London College of Music and delivers an appropriate rendition of This is the Moment from Jekyll and Hyde while Emma Kirk, a 2019 graduate from The Guildford School of Acting, offers Get Out and Stay Out from 9 to 5. It is a shame, however in a two and half hour show not to include at least one duet or three-person song with Modestou herself.

After last week’s brilliant one-day revival of Songs for a New World, Oliver Tompsett takes on Cedric Neale to perform King of the World which is a real crowd pleaser before a salty Hammer to Fall with Modestou as the pair snarl at one another while jokingly chasing around the piano to retain social distancing. For once this cabaret show really did feel like a night at the musicals, with more modern selection that allowed its star to tell the very personal story of her career and hopes for the future.

Runs until 1 November 2020 

The Reviews Hub Score

Variety and freshness

User Rating: 4.35 ( 1 votes)

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