Review: CUMTS x Big Band Roulette: All That Jazz

Jazz and musical theatre…what a great start to May Week!

It seemed like the show had started before it had even begun. Whoops and cheers could already be heard as the audience came into the ADC Theatre for the show’s 11 pm start, and the energetic atmosphere only crescendoed as the show went on. It was great to see the strong crowd support throughout, and the singers and musicians did well to feed off the audience’s energy.

For those unfamiliar with Big Band Roulette, the premise of their performances are simple, but making this premise into reality is rather more complex. They have a new set list for every performance and randomly selected musicians for whom it is their first time playing together. In addition, they set themselves the challenge of rehearsing it all in just one day before putting on the show in the evening.

Image credit: Charlotte Conybeare

The band gelled really well together and the jazzy arrangements of musical numbers, some of which were arranged by the band members themselves (like Iris Creighton) worked perfectly in the setting of the ADC. I particularly enjoyed the back and forth interplay between the trumpets and saxophones on songs such as ‘Who Will Buy?’ (from Oliver!) and Niklas Freund’s solo performance of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ (Les Misérables), which gave a well-known song a novel, fresh feel.

This casual, laid back atmosphere was supported by the musical directors (Tim HargreavesBolin DaiJonathan Parapadakis) who worked hard to whip the crowd up and crack a few jokes as they introduced each new number. A highlight perhaps was the band encouraging the audience to wave our smartphone cameras to their rendition of I Dreamed a Dream, described by Tim Hargreaves as ‘the cheesiest piece of music’. Everyone around me had a wide smile on their face, and it was refreshing to see a band of this quality not taking itself too seriously!

Having said that, each performance definitely spoke for itself and I enjoyed the wide range of the set list. There was everything from ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ (from 42nd Street), to ‘Get me to the Church on Time’ (My Fair Lady). The singers from CUMTS pared-up nicely with the band, and the vocals came-together nicely with the music, I caught virtually every word!

Image Credit: Charlotte Conybeare

Whilst occasionally the performers seemed a little stiff as they faced the ADC crowd, the best songs were those where the singers were animated and covered the whole space of the stage. Isaac Jackson gave a strong opening performance of ‘Don’t Break the Rules’ (from Catch Me If You Can), complete with a few cheeky grins at the crowd, eliciting shouts of “yeah Isaac!” I was also particularly impressed with Kristen Chang and Emilia Grace‘s performance of ‘Take Me or Leave Me’ (from Rent) with the energetic interaction in the duet and a good vocal range.

The show was topped-off with April Perrott’s beaming performance of ‘Lullaby of Broadway’, later joined by all the other performers on stage for the last chorus. The cheers from the audience, who had become increasingly animated throughout the evening, said it all.

However, the band had one more surprise in store. Not only did the band have to learn the set list in a day, they were also set the challenge to sight-read an unseen piece whilst on-stage for the encore. The sheet music was handed out, and after barely looking at it, the band launched into a faultless performance of ‘Footloose’ (from the musical of the same name). With each band member doing a short improvised solo, it was a fitting way to cap-off the evening.

Overall, having set themselves a hefty challenge, CUMTS and Big Band Roulette certainly rose to meet it. I wasn’t expecting a perfectly polished show, but rather enjoyed the more improvised and spontaneous elements to it. The atmosphere of the crowd, perfectly matched by those on stage, created a fantastic buzz in the ADC and started May Week in style.


CUMTS x Big Band Roulette: All That Jazz was at the ADC Theatre on Friday 14th June.

Feature image credit: Charlotte Conybeare

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