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April 27, 2021

Mark Shenton – How to get your show reviewed by a top critic

How you ever had a bad review and wanted to ask the reviewer why? I have, and did. Years ago I’d opened the Adelaide Cabaret Festival with John Wilson conducting their symphony orchestra. Mark Shenton gave me a cutting review, saying it was a case of “the bland leading the band”. Ouch. I knew what he meant, and actually agreed with him and though I was dying to explain to him why my performance seemed… reserved, of course I couldn’t. He just said what he saw and what was done was done. Years later, I got a chance to talk to Mark face to face about this, reviewing cabaret in general and much more besides.

We look at New York’s cabaret scene, lament the loss of Pizza On The Park and celebrate London’s new venues like the St James Studio and the Crazy Coqs. We compare notes on our favourite artistes like Michael Feinstein, Barb Jungr, Elaine Stritch, Andrea Marcovici, Barbara Cook (“a lifetime of experience in a voice”) and the lady who Mark describes as “the cabaret Goddess of them all,” Broadway’s Ann Hampton Calloway.

Musical theatre actors don’t always feeling comfortable breaking down the forth wall and presenting a very intimate show. There are exceptions and amongst others we discuss Philip Quast, Imelda Staunton and Elaine Paige. “Cabaret,” says Mark, “is not so much an expression of the song, but of the person through the song. So you are revealing yourself in song and the song is just a medium for it”. We also tackle questions like: What is the X Factor? Can anybody do cabaret? Can it all be taught? and, whether the medium has a future?

Mark is one of the UK’s most respected and prolific reviewers. He’s passionate about theatre and loves discovering exciting new artistes. As for getting Mark along to review one of your shows, he says, “Don’t be afraid to get in touch. I don’t mind being pestered,” he says, “As long as you don’t mind me saying no, I don’t mind being asked.”

Recorded in London 7th June 2013.

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