Review by Carly Fisher
Musical Theatre songs are like a love language in and of itself. So when Leona Marie takes to the stage with a songbook of musical theatre classics, it does not take much to get the audience excited.
Billed as one of Scotland’s best singers, Marie clearly has some great power in her vocal register. She has carefully selected a repertoire of songs that all showcase her voice beautifully throughout the 75 minutes of Broadway Babe.
With songs selected from Phantom of the Opera, Carousel, Mary Poppins, Les Miserables, The Sound of Music, etc, it is clear that she has a definite focus in her love of musical theatre and that she has created this show for a pretty specific demographic. Set in the beautiful A Club at the Merchant’s Hall, the show has a grand home for some of musical theatre’s best known and most beloved tunes.
I am unashamedly a massive musical theatre fan and despite not being ‘of the demographic’ as far as the audience was concerned, I could eagerly sing every word to every song, making for a fun afternoon’s entertainment. I anticipate that many musical theatre lovers like myself would love the set list for this show.
Where Broadway Babe lost me, and I would argue many within the audience, was in Marie’s inter-song rambles wherein she shared personal stories from her life. Whilst the concept of this is lovely, I felt that many of the stories had little to nothing to do with the song preceding it or following the story…and so, though a clear attempt to prove relatable to the audience, I felt a bit distanced from her as a performer. Many of these stories feel like the funny jokes you share with a friend - tales of Ibiza and driving mishaps - but that relationship wasn’t clearly established from the get go and so it felt hard to get to know her. With better direction or even just the tightening of these stories, the show would flow smoother.
But realistically, no one is there for anything more than a great performance of beloved musical theatre tunes and so with each song, she wins the audience back.
After a costume change, Marie returns to the stage with 2 songs from Chicago and it is here that, for me, she seriously shines. Rather than more of the operatic inspired hits from part 1 of the show, here Marie really gets to showcase her showmanship and show us what a performer she really is. Her audience engagement here peaks as she descends from the stage and craftily makes her way around the beautiful Hall to each of the male audience members present. ‘When you’re good to mama’ is a true highlight of the 75 minute production.
After a couple of songs from shows including Chicago, Flower Drum Song and Miss Saigon, we are off for a 5 minute interval…in a 75 minute show? Personally I feel that it would have been better to cut a couple of songs and tighten the show to not require a break (/another costume change) to improve the flow of the show. The break here, at the 55 minute mark honestly felt weird and I was disappointed to see the show interrupted there, just Marie truly peaks in her performance. It was jarring and felt unnecessary.
Again though, when she returns to the stage, this time adorned in an Oklahoma meets Cabaret ensemble of a pink gingham halterneck dress with a black bedazzled corset on top, she works to win the audience back with songs like ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ and, one of the highlights vocally of the cabaret ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade.’ Though an obvious song choice included in many a musical theatre cabaret, this Funny Girl classic really lets Marie sparkle - it is a stellar performance.
We run through just 2-3 more songs and then Marie ends with a beautiful tribute to live music, live theatre and all that we are so grateful for after the last 2 years. It is a sentiment shared by all in the audience no doubt. It is so good to be back to live performances and this was really a show worth coming back for!