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The Theatre Channel's third episode features Shan Ako, Alex Gaumond, Rob Houchen, Francesca Jackson, Aisha Jawando and John Owen-Jones


BWW Review: THE THEATRE CHANNEL EPISODE 3 The Theatre Channel is back with a third episode, this time themed around rock numbers from the musicals.

It features Shan Ako, Alex Gaumond, Rob Houchen, Francesca Jackson, Aisha Jawando and John Owen-Jones, alongside the regular Café Four, who are always a welcome addition to the screen.

Unlike previous opening numbers in the series which have showcased the dancing abilities of the Café Four, kicking off with "Aquarius" from Hair provides a defined focus on their vocal talents with stripped back choreography. This change of pace for the Café Four is a clever touch, as it allows them to develop as intrinsic characters within the series.

Jackson follows on with "Forgiven" from Jagged Little Pill. This is a seamless transition from the Café Four, as this is an emotionally fuelled rock number with simple, yet effective, choreography. Jackson grows the tension from subtle to powerhouse in a devastating gospel delivery; she owns the song, and our attention, throughout.

Moving temporarily out of the Theatre Café and into an eerily empty Trafalgar Square, Houchen puts his own operatic-like spin on "Gethsemene" from Jesus Christ Superstar. Decked appropriately in white from head to toe, he confidently hits the high notes and takes you on a delicate journey of conflict and sadness. It's the perfect delivery of a difficult song, and you can't help but hope Houchen gets to perform in the show one day.

Showing her versatility as a performer, Jawando, who was recently in Tina: The Musical, blends sexiness and strength in "Acid Queen" from The Who's Tommy. She commands your attention with her electric vocals and stage presence, and throws in the right amount of light and shade, never missing a beat.

Surrounded by blue mood lighting, Gaumond is up next with "Le Monde est Stone" from Starmania. Choosing a musical number that's sung in French (and subtitled in English) is a clear example of the creative thinking of Adam Blanshay (producer), Bill Deamer (director and choreography) and Michael England (musical supervisor), and the risks they're willing to take.

Gaumond is a perfect choice too; not only is French his mother-tongue, but he naturally oozes charisma and passion down the lens. His connection to the song is explained further in a post-show interview at the end of the episode.

One of the joyous things about the Theatre Channel is the line-up gets to explore roles they may not get to do otherwise. Ako is the perfect example of this; her intimate rendition of "I'll Cover You (Reprise)" from Rent not only switches it to a female vocal, but it also allows her to put a unique spin on it. Backed up by the Café Four to maintain the Rent connection, Ako portrays both love and loss with a memorable performance.

Owen-Jones is the show-stopping final number, with "Pity the Child" from Chess. You really notice the small additions to the set design with the finale in particular - including a checked floor.

This really highlights the level of detail that goes into this series. The anguish Owen-Jones conveys becomes increasingly heart-breaking, as he does vocal gymnastics that goes from delicate and vulnerable to heated and resentful.

While I did miss the high-paced choreography of Deamer that's been present in the previous two episodes, the stripped-back performances were certainly no less impressive or entertaining to watch.

It's hard to review this episode without mentioning the exceptional videography (Ben Hewis), set and costume design (Gregor Donnelly), hair and makeup (Diana Hudson) and lighting (Jack Weir). Once again, their individual contributions work harmoniously together to create six narratives with developed characters that stand-out individually but also flow effortlessly into each other.

This is especially the case with episode three, where the tempo and mood of each song gradually build right up until the finale. The Theatre Channel showcases the high calibre of theatrical talent, both on and off-stage, and has established itself as an online event not to be missed.

Episode 3 is now available to purchase and download for unlimited viewing online

Photo credit: Edward Johnson

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