With all the uncertainty that has haunted the world of theatre since the pandemic began, there’s something unalterably pleasing about seeing a theatrical enterprise grow from strength to strength at this time. Born out of the explosion in streaming content that emerged in the first lockdown, The Theatre Channel has taken that concept and elevated it to something rather special, so mince pies and buckets of mulled wine all round for everyone at Adam Blanshay Productions and The Theatre Café.
In its half-hourly episodes, it has found focus in its themes (Hallowe’en, rock musicals) and shown generosity in its casting. Starrier names may be the headliners but the decision to introduce the Café Four (comprised of Alyn Hawke, Emily Langham, Sadie-Jean Shirley and Alex Woodward) as a regular ensemble has proven a masterstroke, providing continuity across a diverse range of performances and from episode to episode, but also showcasing their own talents alongside a raft of Olivier winners and nominees.
This fourth episode naturally takes the holiday season as its theme and suitably amps up the already high-quality production values. Matt Croke and Tosh Wanogho-Maud crooning through a Holiday Inn medley in tuxes, check (and swoon!). Zizi Strallen nailing some gorgeously stylised choreography (from director Bill Deamer) in ‘Turkey Lurkey Time’, check. Sophie-Louise Dann as Mame (talk about perfect casting!), check. Cassidy Janson imbuing ‘White Christmas’ with real musicality, check.
The Café Four support admirably in so many of these numbers, keeping up in many a dance routine and harmonising beautifully next to the piano. And in a neat touch, some of the graduates from the ArtsEd class of 2020 get a much-needed opportunity to shine in a powerful rendition of ‘Seasons of Love’. By the time, Rachel John and her band of renegade dancers break into the theatre next door for pretty much a full on production number, you’d almost forget there’s a pandemic on. A real festive treat and a compelling argument for continuing to support an industry that has been so sorely neglected by the government in this testing year.
Episode five – The Theatre Channel – The Golden Era of Broadway will be released on Friday 29 January 2021 and performers confirmed so far include Freddie Fox, Bonnie Langford, Marisha Wallace, Mazz Murray, Gary Wilmot and Michael D. Xavier.