Themed around Broadway classics, this latest instalment stars Freddie Fox, Bonnie Langford, Marisha Wallace, and more.

By: Feb. 22, 2021


Episode five of The Theatre Channel faced an unexpected delay due to Covid-19. But with extra measures in place ensuring a safe filming environment, the long-awaited show is here.

Themed around Broadway classics, this latest instalment stars Freddie Fox, Bonnie Langford, Marisha Wallace, Mazz Murray and Gary Wilmot, as well as series regulars the Café Four, performing numbers from iconic musicals including Cabaret, West Side Story and Gypsy. These songs may be drawn from a bygone era of musical storytelling, but with high-quality production, sizzling choreography and passionate performances, they are brought into the modern day.

Kicking off the episode with a mashup of "Willkommen" and "Money" from Cabaret are Fox and the Café Four. The Theatre Café is dressed up as a much-missed cabaret environment, while Fox - not in any way known as a singer - explicitly welcomes us back: a clever opening number for a series that has been waiting patiently to return. A great example of an iconic number updated to our anxious times, Fox demands that we leave our troubles outside and enjoy the show. His eccentric performance is mesmerising and manic, drawing you into the show immediately with his unique charisma.

The Café Four (Alyn Hawke, Emily Langham, Sadie-Jean Shirley, and Alex Woodward) continue to showcase star quality in their own numbers as well as ensemble roles. We eagerly await not only their reappearance in future episodes but on the West End stage.

Wilmot's rendition of "Luck Be A Lady" from Guys and Dolls is determinedly old-school and finds the West End veteran not in the cafe but instead exploring the backstage of a theatre. His effortless showmanship and smooth vocals elevate Sky Masterson's number from the first note and remind us why Wilmot is such a well-loved talent.

Langford's "I Get A Kick Out Of You" from Anything Goes finds her sitting rather appropriately at the 9 To 5 The Musical table, having performed in that very show before the pandemic pre-emptively closed its run. Starting in a demure mood, Langford quickly transforms out of her coat and into a glittery red jumpsuit to enable her to perform high kicks around the café. Langford's love and appreciation for every show poster she comes across add showbiz sparkle to this upbeat number, and her likeability is infectious.

"Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy is an emotionally charged number, so performing it for a virtual series poses an incredible challenge for Murray. Her storytelling through this song is so on point and passionate that even those who've never seen Gypsy will understand the character's feelings and intentions from the off. Murray takes you on Momma Rose's wild ride of emotions, the song's power amplified by her bold and brassy vocals.

The show ends with Wallace singing "Somewhere" from West Side Story outside The National Theatre. As she references "a place for us", looking out over the South Bank next to a venue whose lights are turned off, the London-based American communicates to perfection both sadness and hope.

The episode includes interviews with Wallace and the director-choreographer Bill Deamer, who staged the show mostly over Zoom as he was required to self-isolate. They individually talk about their love of theatre, dealing with the challenges over the past year and the hope they still have. Wallace delivers an inspirational message about the arts offering a place for everyone and the need to take every opportunity you can.

Throughout this episode and the series as a whole, Deamer has created high quality musical numbers, with social distancing cleverly disguised. Michael England's musical arrangements make even the older numbers sound fresh and new and perfectly complement the videography of Ben Hewis. Everything blends together to give a real theatre atmosphere, albeit virtually, which is no easy achievement, particularly now.

The Theatre Channel offers a theatre lover's dream series, showcasing the industry's talented cast and creatives at the top of their game while we wait for them to return to the stage.

The Theatre Channel is available on The Theatre Cafe's website

Photo credit: Edward Johnson