As a counter to my previous post, I thought I would share some mini reviews on performances I have seen in which a star performer has been cast for their talent as opposed to their name, well, maybe their name as well, but they were obviously the best for the job too!
Note: This only covers star casting that I have seen live. Obviously I can’t comment on every star casting ever, so yeah.
5. Catherine Tate in “Miss Atomic Bomb”
I mean, this woman needs no explanation. She always knows how to rock a crowd and has the comic timing to boot, but I had no idea she had the vocal chops as well! What’s Miss Atomic Bomb I hear you cry? Miss Atomic Bomb was a show that ran at the awesome Off-West End venue St. James Theatre for around two months in 2016. It was brilliant, hilarious, and boosted a super talented cast all of which I knew I would fan-boy over anyway but with Tate, I went in not excepting too much from her and she was amazing. She hit a crazy high note and one point and I was gone. Flawless.
4. Kerry Ellis in “Wicked” (2014)
To quote Kerry herself, “[Wicked] has changed my life” and it certainly did. I know she’s not as well-known as the other people on this list, but she is a big deal in the theatre world. As she was touring at the same time, they had to make sure they stated when she would be off, because people returned to see the show, just for her, which I totally get. I remember when the announcement come out saying that Kerry would return for 12 weeks in 2014 I found it very hard to sleep that night at the excitement that I would get to see her in the green again. While not my favourite Elphaba, there was always something special about seeing Kerry as Elphaba, especially in 2014. It felt like a homecoming. A full circle moment. And her acting of the role improved so much. I don’t think I will ever forget her last performance of that run. It was really special.
3. Alexandra Burke in “The Bodyguard”
I loved the show so much when I first saw it I went back again two days later. Both times were in Alexandra Burke’s first week as Rachel Marron. Having seen the tour recently, I didn’t enjoy the production as much as on the West End and I think Alexandra Burke helped with that. Having no previous Rachel’s to compare her to, her performance was so strong for her first week being on the live theatre stage, and that voice, I mean. I’m done.
2. Matt Cardle in “Memphis”
Oh, Matt. What can I say? This was possibly the biggest surprise on my list and another stage and acting debut from an X-Factor winner. Memphis is one of my favourite shows, and things in life, ever, so when it was announced Killian Donnelly was leaving, I wasn’t convinced Matt was up for it, I mean, how can you follow Killian?! I saw Matt twice, the second time being closing night (Booo!) and he was extraordinary! The stage presence, the vocals, he ran away with it and was having a ball! Casting directors, I bow down to you and thank you sincerely.
1. Gemma Arterton in “Made in Dagenham”
So my number one celebrity casting choice goes to this phenomenal lady. Very rarely do I see someone act the shit out of something as much as Gemma did here. She was funny, grounded and emotionally engaging, and damn she can saaang! I don’t know what else to say other than, if this was stunt casting, it was the best stunt casting I have ever seen. This shows deserved a longer life just so more people could have seen her and the rest of the cast.