Love Happens Here: an LGBTQI Cabaret showcases some genuinely great voices, but suffers from a lack of the nudge-nudge-wink-wink delivery characteristic of both the cabaret genre and the most successful am-dram offerings.
On the face of it, Centre Stage London’s ‘journey through LGBTQI culture’ is an admirable goal for their first spring show of 2018. But Love Happens Here begins with an unironic version of Born This Way, the most overplayed and overexposed self-love anthem on the planet. And unfortunately, this set the tone for the night – essentially a variety show without a host which mixes monologue, musical theatre and pop performance less than seamlessly.
Amongst the cast of 20+, there are some genuinely great voices. The dainty Camilla displayed a well-rounded country inflection that could belong to Martina McBride if you closed your eyes. Similarly, Tessa’s robust belt and solid range would not be out of place on a professional stage. The highlight of the show came in the form of William’s sass-parade to the tune of Sex is In The Heel from Kinky Boots. True to the source material, half the male chorus donned at least a kitten heel and strutted across the stage for three minutes. William wore his pumps like a pro and James-Lee even did a cartwheel in his!
Unfortunately, these flashes of fun aren’t enough to make up for the overall shabbiness of the performance. Centre Stage were obviously going for a ‘stripped back’ aesthetic (both as a stylistic and economic choice), but there are ways of achieving it which still have a visual identity and convey a message. For the most part, it seemed the cast had turned up in their rehearsal blacks – and when a costume was donned, it wasn’t complete enough to be compelling.
All in all, Love Happens Here is a stark example of how an overly-earnest attitude can ruin a potentially charming DIY production. As strong as many of the voices on display were, a flash of irony, self-awareness and finesse (ie. a closer embracement of the cabaret genre as a whole) would be a fitting addition to this night’s proceedings.