Harold Sanditen’s Open Mic Night 3rd Birthday Party

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Harold Sanditen’s Open Mic Night
Third Birthday Party

The Crazy Coqs, London, U.K., 4/22/16

Reviewed by Fiona Coffey for Cabaret Scenes

Open-Mic-Night-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212Last night’s extended Open Mic Night at The Crazy Coqs was a glorious celebration of its third year, with top-notch performances from regulars and newcomers, in an atmosphere suffused with community spirit. The brainchild of regular host Harold Sanditen, the Open Mic night has gathered momentum over the past year, attracting singers from over 33 countries, with a constant influx of fresh talent to add to the pool of regulars. Sadly, an injury prevented Sanditen from hosting his own show on this special party night.

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However, his nominated understudy, Champagne Charlie, was in thrilling form. Delighting the packed room with a flamboyant opening medley of Pink’s “Get This Party Started” and Jerry Herman’s “La Cage aux Folles”—with an adapted lyric to include plenty of references to The Crazy Coqs—he then delivered a non-stop 26-act show in the space of two and a quarter hours. Watching for the first time from the back of the room, sporting a sparkling blue tuxedo, Sanditen reported feeling “overcome with happiness and pride.”

Sanditen has always been adamant that the Open Mic should not consist of singers singing for themselves. “I want an audience to come in and pay their £5 cover charge and go away thinking. ‘Wow, that was an incredible night of entertainment for my money.’” Judging by last night’s show, this has largely been achieved. The success and prestige of The Crazy Coqs Open Mic lies in the quality and diversity of performers that it attracts. Last night’s first-timers, paraded as the “Crazy Coqs virgins” were a case in point. By no means virginal in their performing abilities, these acts comprised musical theater, contemporary original songwriting, comedy cabaret and the Open Mic’s first jazz ensemble, from countries as far apart as the U.S. and the Philippines.

But it is the regulars that form the bedrock of the show, and they too are a diverse and talented crowd. On any given night, musical styles range from jazz standards to original comedy songs and to show tunes.

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Although a small number of performers accompany themselves, most rely on regular pianist Michael Roulston to take up any challenge they offer in lightening quick time. Want to lead a “Dancing Queen” sing-along? Play violin and sing “The Phantom of the Opera”?  Offer a cool jazz rendition of “Night in Tunisia?” Last night, Roulston, with bassist Jonty Fisher and David Pasqualini on drums, provided effortlessly inventive accompaniment for all but two of the 26 acts. For Roulston, part of the pleasure of the Open Mic Night is in seeing how performers develop over the course of a year. “When people expand their repertoire and try new things, improve their skills, and become more expressive, it’s really pleasing. Not that it’s a school or anything, but we’re all on a journey.”

Achieving the right balance of quality and inclusiveness is not easy, but I suspect this lies at the heart of the success and distinctiveness of Sanditen’s Open Mic Night. For audiences, Sanditen continues to attract a talent pool and craft a show that can deliver on his promise of a genuinely entertaining night out. At the same time, he and Roulston have created a supportive environment for cabaret singers to be inspired by the best, become part of a community and learn and grow in the process. Let’s hope this is only the third of many more birthday parties to come.

Fiona Coffey

Fiona Coffey joins our review team as a cabaret enthusiast and jazz singer, just as she makes her sell-out debut on the London cabaret scene with a self-devised tribute to her alter-ego Mrs. Robinson. She has hosted jazz evenings and performed at a number of venues including The Crazy Coqs, The Pheasantry, and 606 Club. In her day job she is a leadership development coach, travelling around the globe, working with a hugely diverse population of executives, as they grapple with the challenges of leadership and organizational change. Having recently expended most of her writing energies on her doctoral thesis, she welcomes the opportunity to entertain and inform a different audience through Cabaret Scenes.