The Actuallys are never shy of shaking things up a little and last night’s concert at BOAT was no exception, but this time for a very different reason and one which I applaud. Our LGBTQ+ choral scene has been for many years now, excellent, but at times somewhat polarised by gender, The Rainbow’s being one exception. Last night bucked that trend by inviting to join in the fun, three marvellous female vocalists.

It worked on several levels. Firstly in a programme based on musical theatre it broadened the repertoire without making the singing of female roles by men a comedy act. That can be fun of course, but the joke can wear thin. So we got some great numbers ideally sung by women and I have to declare that they were all sung exceptionally well.

Secondly the addition of female voices when the three joined the male throng added extraordinary new dimensions, thrillingly so. Soprano voices soaring above the rich tones of a male voice choir are so dynamic.

Finally on this point I applaud the element of inclusivity that the chorus have embraced on this occasion. Years and years of fighting for equality in my view does not mean exclusion so hats of to them for this.

Enough politics, let’s get on with the programme. It would be easy to programme a show tunes evening with predictable classics but this concert was peppered with some lesser known numbers and some of them a real test for the choir and for the soloists too. Of course there were big favourites, Mame, Hello Dolly, Luck Be A Lady and a smattering of Les Mis of course. But on top of this we got some great Sondheim and lesser known Kander and Ebb.

It was great to be reminded of how good Kiss Of The Spider Woman is and the guys who tackled the challenging duet Agony from Into The Woods did us proud.

I always enjoy hearing soloists from this choir and especially when the arrangement includes backing from the whole ensemble, it lifts it way above that sense of “karaoke”.

The three women totally nailed their ensemble and solo spots, a fun Independently Owned, a bitter sweet Ladies Who Lunch, the comedy classic Whatever Happened To My Part from Spamalot and a simply blistering Musetta’s Waltz and The Girl In 14G, the last two delivered with real style and vocal prowess by Karen Orchin.

The setting of Brighton Open Air Theatre worked well and thank heaven the weather cleared and saved us from an evening of singing in the rain!

Towards the end of the second half musical director Samuel Cousins dedicated two numbers, ‘Til I Hear You Sing and Bring Him Home to the recently deceased and much loved Jason Sutton. It was a magical moment as two songbirds in trees on opposite sides of the arena joined in, adding to the whole rather movingly.

Credit must also be given to a seriously solid evening of keyboard accompaniment from Assistant Musical Director and Pianist Simon Gray.

And for the finale a medley of Broadway hits to send us home smiling. All in all a great and fun evening. And if you did miss it you can catch an extended version, Overtures Encore, on the 21st and 22nd of June at St Mary’s in Kemp Town where that excellent acoustic will further enhance the experience.

Andrew Kay

16 May



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