Back to Trafalgar Studios: Daniel Boys & guests

It’s rare that I revisit a show. In terms of West End theatre, Avenue Q and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert are the only recent shows I’ve seen more than once, and then the repeat showings tended to be funded by competition prizes, comps or harshly discounted tickets. 

After last week’s visit to Ordinary Days and Daniel Boys’s highly agreeable cabaret, which was the result of the generosity of one of my followers on Twitter, I decided to book under my own steam for Daniel’s final cabaret on Friday, spurred on by the knowledge that, unlike his previous solo effort, he would be joined by fellow BBC show graduates Helena Blackman and Lee Mead. In the intervening years, I’ve come to know all three professionally and personally, and at the risk of sounding presumptuous I’ve come to consider each of them a friend.

I had thought about rebooking for Ordinary Days too, but had decided against it. However, having a lovely dinner (at Scottish restaurant Albannach in Trafalgar Square – lovely food, but the service was a bit slow for a pre-theatre treat) with two friends who were going caused me to reconsider, only to find out the show was booked solid. Great for the show and its producers – any show that’s selling well makes my heart sing – but I surprised myself at how disappointed I was that I wouldn’t be seeing it again.

After kicking my heels in the West End for a bit, I returned to the Trafalgar Studios to see Daniel, Helena and Lee. Clearly the additions to the bill had spurred on others to book too, as while last week’s show had been comfortably half to two-thirds full, Friday saw the tiny Trafalgar Studios 2 packed to the gunnels. Again, that’s great news – but it’s a venue that struggles with so many bodies in such a confined place, and the temperature was uncomfortable, if not intolerable. And that was just for the audience members: I didn’t envy the performers. 

As it was, if the temperature was a struggle it didn’t show in the singing. Daniel seemed especially enlivened by the increased turnout, and even though he acknowledged that his guests helped contribute to it, it meant the whole venue got to hear performances from him that were better than the week before. I think his performance of I’ll Cover You from Rent was just superb (if anything ever happens to me, make sure someone sings that at my funeral. Just before the whole congregation is forced to sing So Long, Farewell from The Sound of Music). 

When it came to the guest numbers, Helena’s ability to make her upper register sound so effortless came to the fore in a magnificent solo, before joining Daniel in a rendition of West Side Story’s Somewhere. (By the way, did I mention that Helena has a wonderful new album out? Go buy it!)

I suspect that the lion’s share of the increased audience may have come to see Lee, though. His appearance took the form of a duet of Extreme’s More Than Words, which Lee sang on his second album, Nothing Else Matters. 

It was a great performance, but it’s a risky song to sing as a duet. As a group song (such as the original) or a solo, it’s easier to imagine it being sung to some external person or persons unseen. As a duet, it’s hard to imagine the words being sung by  two people except to each other. As it was, I’m glad Lee and Daniel were able to sell it as two men sharing their feelings about other people, because if there had been slightest implication of romantic intent in that song between two of my friends it would have been the Biggest. Headfuck. Ever. 

Seriously, it was a beautiful rendition – one that only a select audience has now been party to. And it contributed to an especially strong night of cabaret that was topped off with an encore performance from Avenue Q. After I grumbled last week that both the Avenue and I Love You Because had been cruelly overlooked in Daniel’s retrospective, this was a welcome addition, especially as It’s a Fine, Fine Line is sung in the show by Kate Monster and hearing it sung by a man makes a welcome change.

Ordinary Days has now finished, as has Daniel’s short run of cabarets at Trafalgar Studios. When you next hear of him performing, though, grab a ticket early. On the strength of his recent performances, the demand is only going to increase. 

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Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.

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