Event Review: Cabaret 2019
Robert Scamardella, Director of Music

For many in the Bede’s community, Cabaret is one of the most highly anticipated events in the school calendar, and – with a cast and crew of well over 100 Senior School pupils showcasing their extraordinary talents on stage and behind the scenes – this year’s production exceeded even the highest expectations.

With a slight change of set up from previous years, the whole Senior School school sat down to enjoy the production on the afternoon of Thursday 5 December before the two Gala events welcomed close to 1,000 guests across two evenings on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 December. The Multi-Purpose Hall was once again transformed into a glittering dinner-and-dance concert venue, this year with a Winter Wonderland theme to complement the festive set list.

The evening was expertly compèred by Alyssia Smith, Max Jones, Megan Hume and Will Gwynne, who charmed the audience with their witty repertoire and thoughtful performers’ introductions throughout each of the three concerts.

You Can’t Stop the Beat from the musical Hairspray was the show-stopping first number at the opening of Concert One (pictured top). The pitch-perfect singers and orchestra were joined by our Bede’s Legat Dance Academy dancers for a dazzling musical theatre performance to set a joyful and professional tone for the rest of the evening.

The Bede’s Cabaret Orchestra then took centre stage with their rendition of Sleigh Ride, Leroy Anderson’s energetic piece written to summon up the spirit of Christmases long ago – which certainly got our audiences in the mood for the festive season.

Next up was gifted pianist Evan Nayler, with his graceful performance of Chopin’s Nocturne in C Sharp Minor, who was joined by six of Legat dancers for a poised and perfectly-timed contemporary piece choreographed by Emma Manes.

Continuing the reflective tone was a stunning rendition of Once Upon a December by vocalist Charlotte Webb. This emotive piece was flawlessly delivered by the soloist and accompanying orchestra, who tackled the vast note range and melodies with enviable ease and poise.

The Lower Sixth BTEC band then took centre stage for their ethereal performance of Walking In The Air from The Snowman. Vocalists Amber Giles, Flavia White, Summer Wells-Millard and Clara Martin sang together in absolute harmony, transporting the audience to magical Christmases past.

Next up was a change of tone thanks to the Bede’s Barbershop’s jazzy and whimsical twist on well-loved Christmas classic, Jingle Bells. The Barbershop – this year comprised of Evan Nayler, George Linehan, Max Mason, Max Jones and the latest addition to our Music department, Mr James Aburn – is a much-anticipated highlight in every Cabaret event. This year was no exception, with the audience tapping their toes throughout the group’s charming rendition.

Lili Spagnoli then brought her powerhouse vocals to Aretha Frankin’s Do Right Woman – Do Right Man – no mean feat for any professional vocalist, let alone a young performer yet to take her A Levels! However, Lili performed with flawless grace and wowed the audience with her beautiful tone and emotive performance.

The final piece in Concert One came courtesy of a core de ballet of twenty-one Legat dancers for the iconic Waltz of the Snowflakes from Tchaikovsky’s much-loved festive favourite, The Nutcracker. Originally choreographed by Morris Petipa, the piece was re-staged by former Principal Dancer with the Royal Ballet and Teacher at Legat, Fiona Chadwick. Special mention must go to First Years Lucy Hammond and Frank Davison for taking on the lead roles of Clara and the Nutcracker respectively, and all dancers for performing the piece with such elegance and grace.

Following a delicious main course, audiences were treated to another Legat performance – this time a sparkling, up-tempo piece to Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Bringing a spritz of glamour to the show, the technically demanding piece (delivered with ease and precision with the help of dance specialists Sherrie Pennington and Ross Carpenter) wouldn’t look out of place in a prestigious 1920’s jazz cabaret venue.

Next to grace the stage was Will Hopkins with his powerful rendition of Being Alive from Stephen Sondheim’s well-loved musical Company. Although only just into Sixth Form, Will has an impressive performance CV including playing the lead in both a British Youth Music Theatre production of The Winter’s Tale and West Side Story at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park. His rendition conveyed a depth of emotion rarely found in such a young performer, with the impressive final note leaving many people in the audience with goose bumps.

Our Jazz Choir then entertained us with their wonderful performance of The Christmas Song. Charlotte Webb, Ksenia Reimchen, Lili Longden, Jess Frisby, Summer Wells-Millard and Aisling Cotter sang in perfect harmony throughout, with their dulcet tones and festive cheer getting everybody into the Christmas spirit.

The winter theme continued with the following two numbers. The Cabaret Orchestra’s wonderful Medley from The Polar Express transported the audience with its joyful rendition, which flowed from marching up-tempo melodies to smooth, soothing phrases with ease. Next we were treated to Flavia White, Jessica Frisby and Aisling Cotter’s sophisticated and melodic performance of Bing Crosby’s beloved White Christmas.

Continuing the romantic theme, Amber Giles stunned the audience with her moving rendition of Sarah McLachlan’s Winter Song, with her velvet tone conveying the emotive lyrics with ease and maturity. She was joined on stage by dancers Freya Woods and Owen Pennington, who told a poignant love story set during the First World War in a piece movingly choreographed by Simon Williams.

The Cabaret Jazz Band then presented a change of tone with a smooth, upbeat performance of Ye Jazzy Gentlemen, followed by a rendition of Boogie Woogie Santa Clause featuring a fantastic piano solo from Joshua Slater. Despite not yet turning 14 years old, Joshua is a Diploma level pianist who showcased his ability to lead a jazz band with unmatchable skill.

Next up was the Bede’s Cabaret Singers’ glittering performance of Charles Brown’s 1961 classic Please Come Home for Christmas, which was delivered with flawless harmonies throughout.

Flautist Daisy Noton is one of our brightest musical talents; as well as being a member of the National Youth Orchestra for three years in a row, she recently performed at Glyndebourne’s Homelink Gala and with the London Mozart Players at Hastings’ Opus Theatre to critical acclaim. Daisy performed alongside Mr Giddey and Mr Scamardella to deliver an atmospheric and evocative rendition of Lowell Liebermann’s Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano, Op 83.

We welcomed our Legat dancers to the stage for the final number of Concert Two: a creative and witty musical theatre performance choreographed by Sherrie Pennington to One Jump Ahead from beloved Disney film, Aladdin. They were accompanied by the Cabaret Concert Band with vocalists Will Hopkins, Megan Hume, Summer Wells-Millard and Thea Adams.

Following a quick break for dessert, the Upper Sixth BTEC Band opened the third concert with a pitch-perfect rendition of Everybody Needs Somebody, with the Legat dancers getting everybody in the party spirit with their fun-filled Blues Brothers-inspired performance.

With the dancefloor declared open, we were treated to Ksenia Reimchen’s romantic and sophisticated performance of The Look of Love; The Cabaret Singer’s upbeat and festive Run, Run, Rudolph; and Lili Longden and the Jazz Band’s smooth and classic The Man with the Bag.

The Jazz Band continued to impress with their tuneful and technically-precise renditions of Jingle Bells and 702 Shuffle, before being joined by the Jazz Choir for disco classic and crowd favourite Blame It on the Boogie. The concert finished with The Cabaret Singers’ jubilant performance of All I Want for Christmas is You, and it was a joy to watch the audience get involved with a singalong and dancing to round off a mesmerising evening.

Following the concerts, the dancefloor remained open for a little while longer thanks to a fabulous set from the Upper Sixth BTEC Band, who performed a range of crowd pleasers from Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree to Oh What a Night!

A huge thank you must go to all involved in making the event such a success: to Mr Scamardella, Mrs Murphy, Mr Choithramani and their Music, Legat and Drama teams for choreographing the show; Chris Prescott of U2M, Steve Hopkins and their sound and lighting teams for making the hall look and sound the best it possibly could; our Sixth Form Media pupils for the wonderful visuals; our fabulous caterers, Holroyd Howe for the superb food, drink and service; and – of course, most importantly – to our talented pupils, whose hard work in rehearsals and professionalism throughout each performance cannot be faulted. Many congratulations to all.

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