Xara Vaughan

Xara Vaughan

Wilton Music Hall, London, U.K., May 7, 2015

Reviewed by Mychelle Colleary for Cabaret Scenes

Xara-Vaughan-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212 With just two years experience since her first show as part of Edinburgh Fringe in 2013, Xara Vaughan is relatively new to the cabaret scene.

Her promo materials garner interest by making the most of her eclectic background, which includes stints as Stingfellow’s Angel (pole dancer), Buddhist nun and front woman for a punk band. Vaughan is clearly someone comfortable with contrast and self-expression, skilled at seduction as well as the pursuit of enlightenment via compassionate bodhisattva practice.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from “a true chanteuse born out of talent and circumstance” but, thought it was a serendipitously great opportunity to check out one of the last surviving 19thcentury music halls (also one of the two prestigious venues added to this year’s venue roster for the London Festival of Cabaret): Wilton’s Music Hall. Disappointingly, the hall itself is currently being refurbished, so the show took place in the attached cocktail bar. Just as well really; the intimate space provided the perfect canvas for Vaughan to wield her considerable talent and very personal story.

Vaughan has a lovely unconventional voice, velvety smooth when she wants it to be, forcefully belt-y when she needs it to be.

Her diction is impeccable, creating sibilant structure from which to hang every carefully crafted note.
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She is charming and engaging, a singer’s singer and master storyteller.

Deeply affected by the sudden and premature death of her mother, Vaughan’s show takes on her journey through that pain and self-discovery, beyond grief to acceptance.

Powerful subject matter, poignantly familiar emotions to most people in some way or another.

The song choices were stylistically eclectic and served to support the narrative. Music direction was provided by Mark Aspinall, whose clever arrangements (and piano playing) of both modern and classic pop songs were both articulate and lush.

The show was darn near perfect. Unfortunately, Vaughan had a habit of thanking the audience after each song before any sort of appreciative clapping started. It was either a cabaret newbie’s nervousness—“now I’m telling you the song is over”—or something that was scripted for assumed thunderous applause. In either case, it was a split second of inauthenticity that lessened the impact of what otherwise held the audience spellbound serving as secret confident to the singing confessor.

It also felt a bit pejorative to hear a cockney accent every time there was a need to convey something colloquial.

That said, it was one of the best new artist shows I’ve seen in quite some time. I would encourage anyone to go and experience Xara Vaughan if the opportunity presents.
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Given her past, it’s easy to assume being a singer could be just another career she is passing through. Let’s hope not, but to venture on the side of caution, catch her while you can.

Mychelle Colleary

Mychelle Colleary (native Californian, honorary New Yorker and now Londoner) graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from San Jose State University. Her first professional acting role was at 18 and she worked in theater for two years before attending University. As a jazz vocalist, Mychelle has performed internationally and has shared the stage with greats such as Carl Anderson, Clare Fischer and Bobby McFerrin. She currently divides her time between project management (design & communications) and being on a stage or in an audience. From musical theater to classical to folk rock to jazz to cabaret, Mychelle brings her collective professional experience and insight to reviewing.