REVIEW – Encore, Customs House, South Shields

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ENCORE’S latest performance includes the funniest section the singing group has ever produced.

The series of songs, entitled One Foot in the Grave, and set in the Not-Long-Now Retirement home, opens the second half of the show and is brilliant in its conception and execution, and had an appreciative opening night audience in raptures.

All members of the group shine in this particular medley, but stand-out performers were Caroline Wells (Let’s Do It), Trish Whale (For Once In My Life) and Janet Peel, who managed superbly with a ridiculous version of I Will Survive despite a heavy cold. Gareth Hunter’s I Wanna Be Loved By You will also stay long in the memory!

The first half started with a quick burst of songs which included hits by Abba, The Beatles and Buddy Holly. This set the tone and pace for a frenetic first hour of show tunes and chart hits.

Joanne Carr and Andrea Atkinson excelled in a good selection of Cole Porter songs, which was followed by 15 minutes of sailor- themed hits.

A Blood Brothers section closed the first half. I felt there were perhaps a couple too many of numbers taken from Willy Russell’s musical, but Mal Hall and Steven Rae did well with their roles as the twins separated at birth.

Keith Wigham and Caroline milked Mix tape for all it was worth during the next section, a medley from the musical Avenue Q.

The closing section was Encore at its very best. A moving performance of Circle Of Life, led by Andrew Richardson, was followed by a couple of Phantom of the Opera numbers. Next came a song made popular by the Military Wives, Wherever You Are, again perfectly performed by Andrea Atkinson and all of the girls.

My favourite song of the night, however, was Alan Davison’s version of Anthem, from the musical Chess. It’s a majestic song and one which Alan has made his own, quite brilliant.

Encore will be back at the Customs House for their November show, but are also putting on a charity show in July. For more information, go to www.weareencore.co.uk

Rob Lawson