Harold Sanditen’s Open Mic 4th Birthday Party
Live at Zedel, London, U.K., April 10, 2017
Reviewed by Fiona Coffey for Cabaret Scenes
Another year over, a new one just begun for Harold Sanditen’s Open Mic Party. Celebrating its 4th birthday on April 10, this is now the longest running show at the Crazy Coqs venue, not just surviving, but thriving under the new “Live at Zedel” programming regime. Since September 2016, Sanditen’s Open Mic is now monthly rather than weekly, with a longer and earlier time slot; according to Sanditen, this is a change for the better. “We have a packed room every time, people know they can’t afford to miss it now that it’s only once a month.” Inevitably, demand exceeds supply for those precious moments on stage, though Sanditen makes herculean efforts to include as many as possible in the set. Curating the show in real time, he does not operate on a “first come, first served” basis, and there is no “system” as such. But his ability to attract the best—musicians as well as singers—and his instinct for a running order that makes an evening fly, is what sets this Open Mic apart.
Any new audience member coming to this particular evening would have been astonished to see what was on offer for a ticket price equivalent to two flat whites at the nearest Prêt à Manger. Harking back to the ’70s with Sanditen’s rousing disco-infused opening number, “I’ve Got the Music in Me,” followed by Julia Hamilton-Burke’s impeccable rendition of “Diamonds Are Forever,” the evening gathered pace with an effortlessly crowd-pleasing “All Night Long” from Paul Rhodes. Thereafter, it was a glorious selection of treats and surprises at every turn: a hilarious ode to Tyrone Power from comedy cabaret veteran David Forest; a captivating Crazy Coqs debut from one-woman band Megan Dooley; self-penned jazz from Melissa Cantilzaar; a star turn from drummer Jonathan “Kitch” Kitching on April Ho’s accomplished “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.” These were only a few of many memorable show moments. And when you discover that the “parade of virgins” includes performers of the caliber of Robert Gino, hotfoot from an appearance with Billy Stritch, and realize that musicians Michael Roulston, Robert Rickenberg, and Jonathan Kitching are performing largely unseen material across a range of genres with the virtuosity and compactness you’d expect from a well-rehearsed show, it is clear that this is no ordinary open mic.
Few open mics can deliver on the promise of a genuinely entertaining evening for audiences. Perhaps few aspire to. But, by focusing on the audience and what they want, and setting expectations for a high-quality, professional, and engaging show, Sanditen has created a rewarding and distinctive experience for performers, too. And, if you can hold an audience’s rapt attention at Crazy Coqs, why settle for anything less?