It’s now ten years since Michelle McManus broke through to fame following her winning on ITV’s Pop Idol. Much has happened for her in that decade, both in her professional and personal life, and all of it is marked in her memory with a song. In this her debut solo show on the Fringe she take us through those memories and songs in the most wonderful of ways.
Taking selections from West End shows including, Chicago, Les Miserable and Blood Brothers along with a few songs from musical films, Michelle immediately embraces her audience the moment she steps onto the intimate stage of the New Town Bar cellar theatre, which with its flickering candle light is almost like sitting in the famed supper clubs of New York's lower east side. The audience immediately embrace her in return as we listen to tales of working with Simon Cowell and the West End audition process when she got down to the final two trying to land the part of Mrs Johnstone in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers.
Michelle enjoyed a lengthy tenure on Scottish television with The Hour, which despite encouraging ratings was given the axe by the executives leaving McManus to ponder: how does one start a new phase in their career at the age of 32? She likened the whole thing to the Diva’s Lament from Eric Idle’s Spamalot. We were then treated to her rendition of the song which had several laugh out loud moments. She knew she had the audience in the palm of her hand. She also lead a mass sing a long of I Know Him So Well from Chess which really hit the mark with the packed crowd.
Michelle is a vocally strong singer but does allow a degree of ‘pop’ vocal phrasing to filter into the bigger musical theatre numbers, which gives these often performed tunes a unique style that allows her to stand out from the rest of the cabaret scene.
With a clear sense of direction and script that is laden in pathos delivered from a autobiographical standpoint, it’s hard to believe this is Michelle’s debut solo performance. McManus performs the show using classy musician recorded backing tracks which tries to add the same sparkle a live band would. However it can at times be a little loud.
All the technical elements combine to ensure McManus truly shines on stage. McManus showed how grounded she really is as her emotions came out during her lengthy standing ovation at the curtain call of her journey through the musicals.
This is production which has longevity to it; if she continues to perform with this level of passion for her material and with the addition of a live band then this show will be out on the touring circuit and will have the same sold-out run it’s currently enjoying at this Fringe.