I’m not known for being a soppy kind of guy. Ask my boyfriend – he’s had virtually no emotion from me in almost three years. So it’s somewhat surprising that I spent the best part of the two hour thirty minute cabaret show from Scott Alan and Cynthia Erivo in floods of tears. But I guess that’s what comes from seeing genuine honesty and passion on stage…
And to be completely truthful that’s pretty much all I need to say on it, because whether it’s the more (well, comparatively) upbeat opening of ‘Never Neverland’ or the far more subdued second half of the set list what you end up taking away from the show is that you’ve witnessed something unique. The pair are both refreshingly and painfully honest throughout and you never get a sense that any of it is even remotely rehearsed, and that’s said with the highest of praise.
Not that it needs to be rehearsed either, because with the odd fluffed line here and there, or a shake up of the setlist in order to accommodate audience feedback or in response to the tone of the evening, the friendship between the two is what’s important and what gives the show its structure. They tell their stories and open themselves up to scrutiny, and Alan’s songs only help to give them a voice.
And the delivery of Alan’s music is second to none. It’s hard to think of a more impressive performer in the west end right now, and with Erivo set to head over to Broadway to take the lead in The Color Purple we may have to look elsewhere for a while. Here, she shows off her voice to its true potential, belting the rousing ‘I’m a Star’ with an ease that would send musical wannabes into a fit of jealousy, or stripping everything back for the emotional ‘Always/Goodnight’.
Arguably Erivo’s most touching performance though was the new song written by Alan specifically for her. Singing about her mother and boyfriend (both present at the evening’s performance), ‘At All’ was a touching tribute to their relationship with her and a thank you to them ahead of her move across the pond. At times clearly struggling to deliver the lines, it was a real testament to her openness and Alan’s songwriting.
Even though the majority of the evening’s singing was by Erivo, Alan did take his turn – the highlight being his version of ‘Blessing’ – a song about rejection following coming out. There’s always something incredibly moving about seeing the songwriter sing his own work, and that’s helped by his frank explanations about the origins of his music.
At this evening’s performance though it was his explanation about the song that Erivo originally made popular herself that was the real emotional turning point . Explaining that ‘Anything Worth Holding On To’ was a song about dealing with his own depression, he invited a girl from his earlier masterclass onstage who also struggles with depression. It’s a real testament to Alan and Erivo that they weren’t afraid to hand over the mic at this point. Jennifer belted out the song and received a standing ovation for it – it was the point at which my tear duct seal was well and truly broken.
What ensued was an incredibly touching talk between Alan and Erivo about their friendship. Alan explaining that he’s happy to have a friend moving to New York to look out for him through the good and bad times; Erivo through her teary eyes telling anyone in the audience that there is always someone out there who loves them no matter how down they may be. As a gesture and thank you for the three night engagement, Alan presented Erivo with a bunch of roses as a thank you, while she passed one back to him.
I applaud them for their honesty. I applaud them for their ridiculous talent. But most of all I applaud them for making every single person in that room feel like part of their family. Never before have I been so touched by something I have seen on stage, and I’m going to bet it will be a long time before I experience anything as genuine as it again.