BWW Review: CHRISTINA BENNINGTON, The Crazy Coqs
Fresh off the Bat Out of Hell rollercoaster, Christina Bennington plays her first solo concerts to a full house at The Crazy Coqs. This "deep dive into all parts of [her] voice," as Bennington described it, treats fans to 16 songs of varied styles and characters which beautifully showcase her range as a performer.
Initially, Bennington appeared to feel the vulnerability of performing as herself and as a soloist, but she soon relaxed when joined on stage by close friend and former co-star Dan Buckley, recent audience favourite as Ferris in Eugenius!.
Their rendition of "Love is an Open Door" from Frozen is joyful and suits their voices and their personal relationship well. This song merges into "I See the Light" from Tangled in a gorgeous arrangement by the musical director and pianist Noam Galperin. However, the opening notes of this number did not seem to sit comfortably in Buckley's vocal range.
Their song from the second half, "You Matter to Me", has the same problem. On both occasions, though, as soon as the two performers begin to sing in harmony, their voices sound lovely together. The best part of their Waitress number is seeing Bennington watch Buckley open it as his proud best friend.
Galperin, too, has a very easy working relationship with Bennington on stage. She mentions "Let It Go" and he starts to play it; she tells a bit of a sob story and he jokingly provides the background music.
Bennington clearly enjoys performing Galperin's arrangement of "Defying Gravity", and the extended range required by his variation moves between Elphaba's mezzo and Glinda's soprano, bringing the two iconic roles together. This allows Bennington to show off her versatility. The slowed-down version highlights the lyrics and the added incidentals bring out Elphaba's character as an outcast.
The other guest star at Crazy Coqs, Danielle Steers, is also just out of Bat Out of Hell, and her performance is flawless as always. It creates intimacy to see Bennington and Steers perform songs from Bat as Christina and Danielle. While the leading ladies set out to celebrate their differences, their chemistry is undeniable. They are clearly very emotional about the end of their run together, but their rendition of "Happy Days"/"Get Happy" is a great tribute to the partnership they have built.
There are three Bat songs in the programme. The Bennington-Steers rendition of "Good Girls Go to Heaven" is electric and it is again touching to hear Christina sing "Heaven Can Wait", rather than Raven. Bennington demonstrates her understanding and mastery of her talent through this song as she explains that she requested to sing it "bigger, higher and with a key change", which writer Jim Steinman deemed "wonderful".
Not only does Bennington demonstrate her ability to sing across different styles, she tells the story of how she came to love them, starting with Mary Poppins, moving to her 10-year-old self's favourite, Avril Lavigne, with an effervescent version of "I'm With You".
She also performs "Raven", the first song which required her to use her high belt with her college singing teacher, and "The Laughing Song", which secured her current agent. The latter performance is particularly charming.
This debut concert, labelled by Bennington "the start of [her] 2019", showcases her prowess with accents but also, more importantly, shows her potential to take her career in one of many directions for her next chapter.
Christina Bennington performed at The Crazy Coqs for two shows on 7 January.