Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Review: Rachel Tucker 'Back From Broadway' at the St James Theatre

Rachel Tucker 'Back From Broadway' 
St James Theatre
Reviewed on Sunday 19th April 2015 (Evening)

Fresh from originating the role of Meg in Sting's new musical The Last Ship in New York, on Sunday Rachel Tucker celebrated her return to London with the debut of a brand new concert show entitled Back From Broadway. Broadway's loss is London's gain as it was an absolute treat to see Tucker back up on stage belting out everything from showtunes to new writing as well as eighties pop classics. 

Never one to shy away from a mash-up, Tucker opened the show with a few New York themed numbers including Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's classic 'On Broadway' and Alicia Keys' 'Empire State of Mind'. From the word go Tucker gave her all; despite having just finished a matinee she was on fire and meant serious business.

The Broadway theme continued throughout the show, Tucker discussed her first experience of New York at the age of nineteen as well as the journey she went on with The Last Ship. Stories smoothly intertwined with song choices, without anything feeling too forced or out of place. On paper the set list would look extremely random, but Tucker made everything make sense - she is a diverse talent with an array of influences. She keeps her audience on her toes, I love that you can never guess what she’ll do next. 

After discussing The Last Ship's early closure at the start of the evening, Tucker performed a sensational rendition of Frank Sinatra's 'That's Life' as that's what her mum would have said. Later she treated us to performances of her two solo numbers from the show 'August Winds' and 'If You Ever See Me Talking to a Sailor'. A new and refreshing sound for musical theatre, I absolutely adore the music Sting wrote for the piece. Both numbers are a perfect fit for Tucker's voice and you could feel how much the show means to her - let's hope it finds its way to London. 

Sting & Tucker
Tucker used the opportunity to sing songs from a couple of shows she would love to do. She showcased the perfect Calamity Jane as well as Carole King – Tucker explained she had auditioned for Beautiful's U.S. Tour and loved learning King's music. 

Back From Broadway had been carefully constructed, with moments of light choreography and slick direction adding some nice touches; however, it was Tucker's more spontaneous chats with the audience which set the tone beautifully. She seems so at ease onstage, naturally chatting away. Vocally she is always on point and knows exactly how to pace herself. 

At Tucker's last concert, which launched the release of her debut album The Reason, she was joined by her dad for a special duet. After explaining that her siblings were like The Osmonds of Belfast (only they had less money and weren't as religious), Tucker invited her sister Margaret to join her onstage for a duet of 'I Know Him So Well' from Chess. Their rendition was outstanding, the pair’s voices blend together superbly and their chemistry couldn't have been stronger. With many jumping to their feet, the song provided one of the evening's biggest highlights.

As the evening drew to a close, Tucker gave a heartfelt rendition of 'Anything Worth Holding On To' by Scott Alan and sang the hauntingly simple 'It's Not the Same Moon' from The Last Ship before being joined by Olivier Award-winning Sunny Afternoon actor George Maguire for a fun duet. 

Finally Tucker explained she had opted for the obvious song choice to conclude the show - 'Defying Gravity' from Wicked. She sang the first verse stripped back before the magnificent band (who sounded amazing all evening) kicked in; however, Tucker still had one last surprise up her sleeve. Just as the song's iconic climax approached she diverted into 'No Good Deed' from the almighty "Fiyero" riff which was greeted with huge cheers from the crowd. The song is rarely performed out of context, but Tucker made it work – it was incredible to see her take on the epic number once again, ending the evening on an almighty high.

Tucker left the stage with the entire audience on their feet desperate for more. She returned for an encore of Frank Sinatra's 'New York, New York' for which everyone remained standing and clapping along, providing the perfect end to the perfect evening.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

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