Sunday In the Arts with Jacqueline Hughes

So I don’t know about you all, but i’ve been waiting for Jackie Hughes to do a solo concert since the first time I heard her sing a solo at Chloe Hart’s Cabaret in Freedom back in early 2012. At that time I was just getting to know the Wicked London cast. I knew that I loved what they were all doing in Wicked, but was curious to see what they could all do beyond it, because half of them get one line if that & it’s just never enough.

I left that gig absolutely in awe of Chloe Hart & her talent for a start but also completely mesmerised by Jackie Hughes, Charlotte Scott, Michelle Pentecost, Lauren Samuels & Thomas Sutcliffe. Since then i’ve always tried to support them in their careers, where ever I could. It’s so nice to start a journey & have it take you to so many places, meeting amazing people & watching people develop & also being introduced to new music.

At that gig, Jackie performed a solo of what has become somewhat of a signature song for her, a song I was not familiar with & have to admit at the time, back in my more ‘innocent’ days of living in London was a little shocked by.. shock soon disappeared because she delivered it perfectly, fully committed to it & sounded perfect. For those who don’t know or may have not seen it …

Fast forward a little bit & Jackie moved up from #SuperSwing in Wicked to #SuperSwing & Cover Morrible.. Fast forward another cast change & Jackie swapped her white wig & over the top frocks for green paint & a broom.. Jackie then left Wicked London to become Standby Elphaba on the Wicked Tour. So after Defying Gravity in numerous cities across the UK & Ireland, Jackie went on to win West End Frame’s ‘Understudy of the Year’ award. An award voted for by theatre lovers online. There was a large number of insanely talented performers in this category & she held strong in the top two for the whole voting process eventually taking it out. An award she definitely deserved, in my opinion (eventually I’ll finish my write up of why her Elphaba is the perfect Elphie, so keep an eye out for that one day soon, i’m sure).

So anywho, I & many of her fans have been telling Jackie for years that we need a London cabaret from her. I’ve seen her in gigs here & there but we only ever got a few songs & they only served to make us yearn to see a full gig. So when Sunday in the Art’s announced earlier this year that Jackie would be doing a solo gig i’m pretty sure I booked within 30secs, to ensure I wouldn’t miss out. Knowing that it was a small venue & Jackie had built up quite a following in the past 4 years.

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So on Sunday the wait was finally over & it was time for ‘Sunday in the Arts with Jacqueline Hughes.’ After a brief welcome & introduction from Emma Ralston & Anthony Williamson the hosts & masterminds behind Sunday in the Arts with, Jackie stormed the stage with a rousing rendition of “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl, which set the tone for the afternoon, letting us know that we were in for a treat & lots more of that rich, gorgeous & powerful voice.

She then flowed straight into a delightful interpretation of Eva Cassidy’s ‘Songbird.’ A song that i’ve grown to really love over the years & as it’s such a classic have heard numerous times from different performers, but Jackie’s take on the song was gorgeous in a way that naturally complemented her vocal tones. Keeping it ever so gentle in the moments that needed it but every so often allowing her self to build it up a bit & throwing her own mark on it too.

Jackie then introduced herself before inviting her first guest up, Oliver Brenin, whom she met whilst doing “some little show,” you may have heard of, Wicked. Oliver is now in Les Miserables & joined us to share “Take a Chance on Me,” from Mamma Mia (as Jackie joked)… Little Women. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Oli in pretty much all of his cover tracks in Wicked & a few cabarets over the years & always enjoy his performances but I think this was my favourite from him. I’m very fussy with male vocals & his just sat so comfortably on the ear. I love it when a song from the get go has a clear plot & this was one of those kinds of songs & Oli hooked you into the story from the first line & had you captivated till the end.

Before a charming duet of “As Long As You’re Mine” from Wicked with Oliver. Jackie warned us about the fact that during their time in Wicked it became somewhat impossible for them to look each other in the eye & poked fun at the fact they were going to give us this particular love song ‘without in fact looking at each other.’ This number pleased, from what I can gather, almost all of the audience, whom clearly are familiar with & fans of Wicked. It was a joy to see Jackie performing this again after missing her Elphie since the tour ended a few months back & so lovely to see her singing it with a familiar Wicked face & friend of hers.

We were then joined by our hosts Emma & Anthony for a bit of a ‘get to know Jackie’ segment. Chatting about her time in Wicked & how she moved up the ranks & this segment ended with a hilarious but also not, story about Jackie’s most embarrassing & painful memory of her time in Wicked, which occurred during a show as Elphaba in Sunderland. I remember the day it happened there was chatter on Twitter about Jackie being injured & messaging her at the time to make sure she was alright & hearing about her most unfortunate tumble down the stairs, but until now had not heard the full & funny (after the fact) story of how she ended up at the bottom of those stairs, in full plank position & completely alone, as all other cast members were on stage. Until finally one cast member, who was late for his off stage scene & may as well have been trouserless came to her aid & got the show stopped. I am not doing this story justice at all, you had to have been there & heard Jackie tell it, with impressions of her saviour & all for the full effect. Long story short Jackie ended up having to go to hospital in full green make up to be checked out. You know what’s great about Jackie? I remember even at the time, but she can just laugh it off & see the funny side of what was, in reality, quite a scary situation. She’s just that kind of woman though, always ready to brighten a situation with a bit of light hearted fun & not taking herself too seriously.

Moving forward Jackie next enraptured us all with an invigorating performance of Scottish band 4 Non Blondes, “What’s Up.” (Which for my whole life i’ve thought was called “What’s Going On?”). I have to say when Jackie mentioned 4 Non Blondes I was overcome with a great deal of excitement & hoped like hell this would be the song she’d sing. As I remember this is the first song that was ever my favourite, growing up. It’s the first song I remember attempting to belt out in the car with my Mum & the first song I ever made a cassette tape of with just that song on repeat (on both sides). I can even remember the day that cassette tape broke in the car in the parking lot of a supermarket & how heartbroken I was. It’s my go to karaoke tune & apparently the one song I didn’t even realise that I needed to hear one of my favourites sing.. so i’ve got to say, absolutely wrapped that Jackie performed this & with such spirit & zeal.

JackiCU__AArWIAAKRnoe then introduced us to her next guest & best friend Lyndsey Gardiner, who is currently in Phantom of the Opera. She graced us with a glorious & eloquent rendition of ‘Love Never Dies’ from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Love Never Dies.’ I’ve heard so much about Lyndsey because of Jackie, but before yesterday I don’t believe (could be wrong) i’d ever had the pleasure of hearing her perform live, which now seems like a crime. Love a soprano & especially one with such a gorgeous tone that is so pleasing to the ear.

 

Jackie then acquainted us with her love of Kander & Ebb and the song “A Quiet Thing” from Flora & the Red Menace. This song was simply gorgeous & gave Jackie the perfect moment to show off her stagecraft, taking the time to gently tug at our heart strings with this number. Can’t lie, tear’s were very near falling in this song, but in the best way, as a performer makes you feel the lyrics & allows you to get lost or taken away with them.

Jackie next took the opportunity to stop & thank everyone for coming. Something that really stands out with Jackie is just how truly humble she is & thoughtful. She clearly pays attention to the people who support her & took the time to thank those who’d travelled far & wide to be there & just everyone for their support. Speaking about how honoured she was to be even thought of for West End Frame’s ‘Understudy of the Year award,’ let alone to have such overwhelming & unwavering support to help her win the award, you can truly see how much of a sweet & kind soul she truly is.

Speaking of Understudy of the Year, Jackie’s next guest Carolyn Maitland was the previous year’s winner of the award, for her covering the role of Ellen in Miss Saigon, which she has just recently returned to for a stint. Carolyn will next be playing Sally Bowles in Cabaret in Aberdeen. Carolyn joined Jackie for a riveting duet of “Who Will Love Me As I Am” from Sideshow. The pair had only met earlier that day for their first rehearsal, which is something that always fascinates me about performers. How they can meet someone then give a flawless performance together as if they’d been singing together for years. Both Jackie & Carolyn are delivered this song with such emotion & truly drew you in.

After a short interval Jackie immediately captivated our attention straight back with that ‘signature’ tune I mentioned earlier, ‘An Old Fashioned Love Story.” Delivering it with such flair & commitment to the song. It’s wonderful to be able to see someone perform a song over time & see how their interpretation can evolve & grow. How they hone specific bits to make it fit better with in the song, how their acting choices can change to enhance a specific moment, get a better laugh & such. It’s clear to see how far Jackie has come in the past 4 years through watching her refined performance of this song. She truly does blow me away with her talent & this song is so good at showing off her many skills.

To introduce us to the next song, Jackie took a moment to share a bit about tour life, how hard it is to be away from home & just how lucky she is to have a supportive husband & family who allow her to pursue her dreams & keep her grounded. ‘Home’ by Scott Alan is such a powerful number. Scott Alan is known for his heartfelt & deep lyrics & this is definitely one that hits hard for those who can relate to the lyrics. This song is special to me personally & it was just such a pleasure to hear Jackie’s passionate rendition. It was made all the more special just by knowing how dearly she holds her family & having them there in the audience for her. It was a ‘pass the tissues’ moment that’s for sure.

We were then taken on a Kander & Ebb education with a medley of a few of Jackie’s favourites from them. Starting with “Life is Just A Bowl of Cherries” from Fosse & leading into “All That Jazz” from Chicago. I wasn’t familiar with ‘Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” before this, so I was pleasantly surprised to be introduced to such a thoughtful song, but then when you’re dealing with a character such as Jackie, you should expect nothing less than the most thoughtful kind of song. It’s clear that when planning her gig, she put a lot of thought into her set list & the tone she wanted to set. “All That Jazz” was just as it should be, exuberant & sassy.

Emma & Anthony our hosts returned again for more ‘Getting to know Jackie,’ to chat all about the current show she’s touring the UK with, Mary Poppins. The highlight of which was her telling us about when her agent called to inform her which cover’s she was being offered, I really can’t do justice to the story so I wont try, but we were then treated to a cheeky snippet of a Glaswegian ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.’ Which really got the crowd going.. think we need to get the whole band back together if Jackie ever gets to go on for that track.

Carolyn Maitland then returned to try out something new on us, her rendition of Demi Lovato’s ‘Stone Cold.’ I wasn’t familiar with this, so it was nice to be introduced to another new song & something that’s current, being slightly stuck in my stagey world, it’s so easy to ignore what’s happening beyond theatre land. I love seeing musical theatre performers taking on ‘popular’ songs & truly performing them, telling the story by  interpreting & portraying the meaning of the song. It was a pleasure to see Carolyn’s impassioned take.

Another thing I really love, is finding out what songs performers use for auditions, to see  how they impress the casting directors & land their roles. Jackie gave us quite the performance with her audition song for Mary Poppins, “Like Love” from Charlie Girl. Jeepers, seeing that it’s clear to see why they wanted her to cover such a varied range of characters. Such fun, bloody love it, what can I say? She’s ‘practically perfect in every way,’ yes I went there *cringe.*

Lyndsey returned to share her “Art Is Calling For Me (Prima Donna Song)” from The Enchantress & showed off her vocal prowess & charisma. Once again an absolute joy to see such talent up there. Jackie pulled together a fantastic line up to share her stage.

After an array of thank you’s to all involved in the planning & pulling off of the gig, especially to Inga Davis-Rutter on keys, who effortlessly provided the backing to an incredible array of music all afternoon. Jackie then treated us to her impeccable & formidable “My Man” from Funny Girl. This gig gave us the chance to finally see beyond just Jackie from Wicked & get to know Jacqueline Hughes the performer & see the many dimensions to her talent. To summarize, this cabaret was well worth the wait, Jackie knocked it out of the park & beyond & all who were privileged enough to witness it truly are so lucky & i’m pretty sure they know it. We were spoilt rotten.

To top the show off Jackie came back for an encore of ‘The Wizard & I,” I mean how could she not give us that or Defying Gravity? It had to happen & boy did it go down a treat with the crowd. Again I just find it so special as i’ve said previously to watch the evolution of a song from a certain performer & I can remember the first time I saw Jackie perform the Wizard & I in a similar intimate cabaret, through to the first time I saw her do it in Wicked, to her last one in Wicked & now post Wicked.. I mean what a journey Jackie has been on & boy how she truly has evolved into one of the actresses I hold in the highest regard. Her thoughtfulness as I previously mentioned shines through her when she performs & adds that extra level of performance with which you can easily relate to the story she is portraying behind the eyes & get lost in it. If you aren’t a story teller how can you possibly act? Thank you Jackie for being a thoughtful & pure story teller & thank you for finally overcoming that fear & giving us a Jackie Hughes solo cabaret.

Edit* Blast Entertainment have kindly uploaded all the videos from Jackie’s ‘Sunday in the Arts with’ & i’ve put them in a handy playlist for you all to watch.. go on you know you wanna watch & pretend you’re there again (or for the first time, if you missed it).

 

 

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