Saturday 25th March, 2017 at Brasserie Zedel (The Crazy Coqs)
Blazing onto the scene with a rendition of Bette Midler’s ‘Miss Otis Regrets’ before weaving her way through an impressively diverse set list, Rachel Tucker proved herself, once again, to be an incredibly versatile songstress. Aside from that undeniably superb voice and brilliantly judicious song selections, Tucker entertained the crowd with various comical personal and professional anecdotes and some pacy interactions with starry eyed audience members. Her stories ranged from auditions and Broadway to love and childhood dancing – and the audience were nothing if not completely taken with her easy charm and cheeky tales. Under the direction of Guy Retallack, she worked the crowd like a talented few can and her playful ventures into the audience along with the close quarters of the venue created an intimacy which made the whole evening a treat – especially after years of seeing her in the vast surroundings of a West End theatre.
The set list covered an impressive amount of ground, with nods to Broadway favourites ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ and ‘Waitress’ (I thought at one point she was about to launch into a ‘Hamilton’ number but alas, no such luck) and a good range of others. There were some great highlights, like Streisand’s ‘The Way We Were’, Garland’s ‘The Man that Got Away’, a surprisingly gritty Elkie Brooks’ ‘Pearl’s a Singer’, and an even more surprising (and tenderly sad) rendition of ‘When She Loved Me’ from ‘Toy Story’. The audience were then treated to the unveiling of a beautiful original song – soon to be found on a new album I hope. There was also a gorgeous, refreshing take on ‘No Good Deed’ which was a real treat for ‘Wicked’ fans and a sweet moment of recognition for such an influential part of Tucker’s career to date. Not only that, but she impressed with stellar comic timing and some gleefully outrageous renditions of ‘I Can Cook’ and ‘Roxie’, complete with a hilariously delivered rendition of that ‘I love ya honey’ monologue.
I have written about Rachel Tucker’s gargantuan talents previously in my ‘Wicked’ review, but that critique needs an update after Saturday’s show. She continues to impress with her ability to convey whole lives lived in a single song, expertly manoeuvring in and out of internal roles for four minute slots while the audience sat enthralled. That Garland cover could certainly sting the most armoured of hearts. Particularly impressive to note is that those emotive performances were as affecting as the shoulder-shimmying numbers, with her vocal adjustments effortless and seamlessly executed as she moved from a teary-eyed ballad to a jazzier number. Yet Tucker basked in a rockier sound than she’s had the opportunity to showcase recently, having been performing the famous music of ‘Wicked’ and the harmonic melodies to be found in ‘The Last Ship’ (although the latter does feature a fiery Tucker solo). Naturally, I have ‘The Reason’ and the cast album, but I found myself happily surprised by the sound and the ground that Tucker had chosen to showcase in this show; it appears that the vocal vault of this powerhouse does in fact have no walls, ceiling or floor. There were of course the gentle, soaring notes, powerful belts and that growl made a generous appearance (lending itself very nicely to the rockier, livelier numbers) – but the song choices had such vibrancy that they uncovered even more versatility to her voice than I had previously heard.
I was sorry not to have seen the duets with Louise Dearman, Katie Rowley-Jones or Rachael Wooding (who I saw recently in a wonderful production of ‘Wonderland’ ) who were the special guests earlier in the week. I was, however, delighted to see Tucker pair up with Suzie Mathers again and her duet with Mark Dugdale made me sorry that ‘The Jersey Boys’ has left the West End. Also making an appearance was Giles Terera, who is soon to be found in the U.K. production of ‘Hamilton’, and who joined Tucker and Dugdale on stage for a gloriously energetic rendition of ‘Good Morning’ (fitting, as the clocks went forward as we sat there). There was such palpable energy in everything Tucker did in this show and being teamed up with those two for that particular number was like pressing fast forward – and it was fantastic. Let’s face it, seeing performers evidently loving every minute of their time on stage always creates a great buzz – and what an atmosphere that trio created!
The really great thing about this show was that it was a chance to see Rachel Tucker’s talent at the source rather than manifested in a character. I missed the previous solo shows she did and I am even more disappointed about that now than I already was! This show allows Tucker to stand centre stage as herself; a sassy, kick-ass, talented powerhouse in her own right. She gave a feisty, funny performance which carried more charm than you can shake a stick at and enough talent and energy to power the West End’s plentiful spotlights – and I’m not even sure that such a comment is hyperbolic… One thing is certain though: watching Rachel Tucker captivate a packed venue certainly makes a great night out.
Rachel Tucker’s first U.K. Tour begins in May and you can snap up some tickets here. I’d recommend that you do so pretty pronto – these London gigs sold out in a matter of days!
Note: I believe that the tour will be slightly different to these initial gigs so there may well be a fresh review after I’ve seen the show in Birmingham – here’s hoping songs from ‘The Last Ship’, Queen, and maybe a rocky, belty Kelly Clarkson/ Sia number might make an appearance…ooooh, and her fantastic rendition of Evanescence’s ‘My Immortal’…and a ‘Wicked’ medley…and something folky..and something by Ella Fitzgerald…oooooh, and John Legend’s ‘Ordinary People’…and Nickelback’s ‘If Today Was Your Last Day’…okay, I’ll stop now… but in my defence, she has proven that she can tackle anything…and win by a landslide.