Let’s state some facts first: Christina Bianco is phenomenally talented. There are few in this vocal impression game who can deliver such spot-on, pin-point accurate impersonations. There are also few shows where you can hear Streisand, Garland and Minelli, Britney, Christina, and Celine, Menzel, Chenoweth, Peters and Lupone.
What sets Life of the Party from Bianco’s previous efforts is the inclusion of another diva – Bianco herself, finally singing in her own power-house voice and sharing more of her back story and influences. Though, it is her sensitive rendition of the show-stopping Santa Fe from Newsies that really leaves an impression (forgive the pun).
There’s still the unlikely interpretations – Judy Garland does Ed Sheeran to name one, a diva demands quiz, pal Jai McDowall doing a guest turn with Evermore from the recent Disney live-action Beauty and the Beast and Scottish actress Kelly MacDonald makes some bizarre appearances re-interpreting some unlikely movies: Gladiator, Dirty Harry to name a few. Bianco also throws in some highlights from her Broadway and West End turn in the long-running Forbidden Broadway and a flashback to the past with an old Betty Hutton comedy number.
The show runs at over two hours not including the interval and there’s so much bang for your buck. There’s also the fact that there’s such a warmth to Bianco, that the audience feel fully embraced throughout. If she’s playing at a venue anywhere near you, do yourself a favour and see her – the true doyenne of vocal impersonations.
Astonishingly, it’s a decade since Dalkeith native Keith Jack was runner up in the BBC’s search for a ‘Joseph’ in Any Dream Will Do. Only 19 years old at the time, much has happened in the ensuing years, with Jack eventually donning the technicolour coat on the tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
Currently on tour to promote his third and latest album, Movie Nights, Jack returns to Glasgow with an up-close and personal show at Glasgow’s Wild Cabaret. Sitting at tables, under twinkling candlelight, it’s a hark back to the golden days of cabaret.
Eschewing any of the musical theatre tunes that have made him famous, the entire set comprises Jack’s personal movie favourites. There’s no doubt that Jack possesses a voice that would blow a set of barn doors off, but there’s a sense of holding back in this small venue. The sound levels are also a tad imbalanced, the three piece band (drums/keys/guitar) headed by MD Scott Morgan, often overpower Jack – and that’s no mean feat.
The songs in the two-hour set are treated to some new and unusual arrangements from Morgan, the most successful of which are the ballads, especially She’s Like the Wind from the much-loved Dirty Dancing, accompanied only by the piano, Jack’s voice gets to shine fully. A particularly nice touch is the inclusion of children’s choir Vivace who provide depth and colour to I Believe I Can Fly and the title song from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Less successful are Jack’s backing singers who are almost inaudible. The set list as a whole is eclectic, and there really is something for every taste.
Jack’s bubbly personality shines through, and he manages to gee the crowd into life as the night progresses. This is a lovely, small venue and the chance to see a performer of Jack’s calibre and interact with him in such an intimate setting, is a rare treat – it is a great way to spend a Sunday evening – you just can’t help pine for some of those big musical theatre belters to let Jack’s phenomenal voice soar…maybe next time.
Keith Jack: Movie Nights at Wild Cabaret, Glasgow, Set List:
Keith Jack is probably best-known for finishing second on BBC 1’s Any Dream Will Do but his theatre credits since leaving the show are impressive: The Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK Tour); Charlie in Only The Brave (Edinburgh Festival); Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK Tour); Alistair in Sincerely, Mr Toad (Edinburgh/Greenwich); Ralph Rackstraw in HMS Pinafore (UK Tour) and Sparky in Forever Plaid (St James Theatre, London).
No stranger to pantomime, Keith’s credits include: the title role in Aladdin (King’s Theatre, Glasgow); the Prince in Sleeping Beauty (Ipswich Regent); the title role in Peter Pan (His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen), Prince Charming in Cinderella (Whitley Bay/Horsham/Newark) and the title role in Dick Whittington (Maidstone). This season he will be starring as The Prince in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks).
Keith’s newly-released fourth album, Movie Nights, features classic songs from iconic movies, here he talks about the inspiration for the album and the tour to promote it and answers some questions about his career.
This album, and the forthcoming tour, has come from my massive love of films from a young age. I wanted to find a good mix of songs – both young and old – with all different styles and have them led by strings, giving a different feel to all other movie albums. I feel like we have really achieved this, making it more my own style without losing why people fell in love with the song in the first place.
I couldn’t have done it without my lovely friend and MD, Scott Morgan, who did all the arrangements on the album and played the piano beautifully! He was supported by fantastic string players in January Tewson, Jade Cuthburt, James Greenfield and Naomi Wright; thank you for your lovely playing on this album.
A big thank you to Kristian Polly for recording the album and for a fun day in the church recording the strings and also to Istage Studio for letting me use their fantastic facilities to record in. A special thank you to Jim Lang who Mixed and Mastered the whole album, making it sound exactly how I imagined it would be. Also, a special mention to Ian Fraser for all the pictures and the album artwork. I have been lucky enough to have a fantastic team around me to do this album and I couldn’t have done it without them all.
My last mention goes to my family and friends for their help and support in creating this album. And, of course, not forgetting you – my amazing fans. Thank you so much for coming along with me on this journey over the last 10 years. From coming to concerts, buying albums and your support on social media, I can’t thank you enough! I hope you enjoy this album just as much as my others. This tour is the most perfect way to celebrate its release! So, sit back, grab your popcorn and enjoy!
Q & A Interview
Some former talent show contestants claim that the process leaves them feeling manipulated and exploited. Did your experience in Any Dream Will Do make you feel that way?
No, not at all. We were kind of moulded and helped and nurtured to be the kind of performer that Andrew Lloyd Webber wanted. I never felt as though I was just a cog in a money-making wheel.
An amazing 21 million viewers tuned into the final of the series, in June 2007, and Lee Mead went on to wow the West End critics as Joseph in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s magical musical. But you couldn’t even console yourself with the prospect of performing the role in the touring production of the show. That opportunity had already been offered to Craig Chalmers, who finished fifth in the competition. Surely, you must have been gutted and, perhaps, even a little resentful?
Not at all. I was actually still competing in the programme when Craig was eliminated and Bill Kenwright offered him the part of Joseph.
To prove that you held no hard feelings, you accepted the role of Narrator in the touring version, alongside Craig Chalmers, as Joseph, and fellow competitor Chris Barton, who finished in eighth place, as Benjamin. Tell me about that?
I loved it. And, actually, it’s a bigger singing role than Joseph.
They say, though, that everything comes to he who waits and, eventually, you got to actually play the role that you competed for. How did that feel?
It was just a really nice feeling to finally get to do it. I was able to relax and settle into it a lot easier than I would have done if I’d come to it straight from the show. We had some great audiences on the tour and it was nice to see all different parts of the country.
Was it difficult learning to cope with the instant fame that is often the result of such shows.
At first it was strange. You don’t change as a person but everyone else changes around you. It’s very strange to walk down the street and have people following you and trying to take your picture.
Your boy-next-door good looks have ensured that you have a loyal fan following and not just from girls…tell me more?
I was very proud to be featured on the front of a gay magazine. When I first went on to Any Dream Will Do, John Barrowman told me: ‘You haven’t made it until you have a gay fan base’, so to be the cover boy on such a magazine made me very happy.
Tell me what has been happening in your career lately?
I have just finished touring with Joe McElderry in the Saturday Night at the Movies tour and have also completed my brand new album Movie Nights. Right now, I’m enjoying being busy preparing for the forthcoming tour to promote the album.
What are your favourite tracks on the new album and why did you select them?
I love ‘So Close’ from Disney’s Enchanted. That song comes at such a lovely moment in the film and it’s such a beautiful song. It’s not the bestknown song from the movie, but I performed it on the Saturday Night at the Movies tour and everyone seemed to love it. It’s strange that people recognise the song but don’t know where from. I also really like the arrangement that my MD, Scott Morgan, came up with for ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’. Stevie Wonder’s original version has a happy, upbeat feel to it. I have chosen to perform it as a more melancholic ballad – it almost sounds as though it could be a sad lullaby. I think it’s nice to change the arrangement when performing a cover version, rather than just trying to replicate the original.
How do you feel you have matured, musically, in the past decade?
I’m partly the same performer as I was. However, I feel that my voice and, indeed, my performances are more structured and mature. People tell me that I’ve not lost any of the charm, fun and vibrancy of my younger years. I think I have just grown up, that’s all. I now think that I know myself inside out as a performer.
Does it make a lot of difference to be able to choose your own material now, rather than having songs and themes chosen for you?
It makes a massive difference. A lot of the stuff I performed in Any Dream Will Do, I would not have chosen for myself. That said, it taught me to experiment with different styles and to take chances and stretch my boundaries. It’s liberating not to have to pick songs with the sole intention of pleasing the public. That has pushed me on so far.
A selection of the possible songs for Keith’s tour (subject to change) follows:
A Thousand Years: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn
Everything I Do (I Do It For You): Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Staying Alive: Saturday Night Fever
I Just Called To Say I Love You: The Woman In Red
So Close: Enchanted
You’ve Got A Friend In Me: Toy Story
She’s Like The Wind: Dirty Dancing
Kiss From A Rose: Batman Forever
Jailhouse Rock: Jailhouse Rock
Beauty and the Beast: Beauty and the Beast
Run To You: The Bodyguard
KEITH JACK – MOVIE NIGHTS, WILD CABARET GLASGOW 22 OCTOBER 2017
TICKETS – 0141 552 6165
For more information and to keep up to date with future projects, visit: Officialkeithjack.co.uk or @keithjack on Twitter.