Harold Sanditen’s Open Mic Party: 5th Birthday Party

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Harold Sanditen’s Open Mic Party

5th Birthday Party

Live at Zédel at Crazy Coqs, London, UK, April 12, 2018

Reviewed by Gavin Brock for Cabaret Scenes

Harold Sanditen

Celebrating its fifth year as one of London cabaret’s most wildly popular regular events, Harold Sanditen’s Open Mic Night Party has gained a loyal following as a classy, effervescent evening’s entertainment, from which much joy is to be derived whether as a participant or an observer. April’s sold-out birthday celebration exuded the usual atmosphere of fun and camaraderie for which the open mic has become deservedly renowned, with no fewer than 23 performers taking the spotlight in a rollicking two-hour set paying tribute to a range of musical genres from soul and swing to disco, with a healthy dose of jazz and musical theater for good measure. 

Genial host Harold Sanditen (pictured)—who has presided over the event for five full years—was decked out in leopard print for the occasion, overseeing and leading proceedings with a charm and finesse that demonstrate a wealth of professional experience gained over many years on the cabaret scene. Ensemble musicians—Michael Roulston on piano, Robert Rickenberg on bass, Jonathan Kitching on drums—provided the musical accompaniment, embellishing the usual eclectic mix of genres with skillful licks and improvisational coloration that add tasteful panache and breathe freshness into even the most well-trodden standards.  

As established cabaret names rub shoulders with burgeoning talent, what is particularly striking about the Sanditen’s Open Mic is the familial and supportive camaraderie among the performers. The excitement is palpable; it is impossible to predict what gems (of varying quality) will be uncovered in the course of the evening. What one can be certain of is that the dedicated tribe of regular performers (and the motley crew of ‘virgins’) are well practiced and eagerly look forward to showing off their sparkle in front of an unfailingly appreciative and attentive audience. It is hard to conceive of a more dazzling space than the Art Deco surroundings of Crazy Coqs in which to showcase and hone a new routine, and the participants arrive dressed to impress with more than just a dash of sequins, glitter and glamour to their evening gowns.

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It’s not a joke to suggest the ladies were almost equally as dazzling.

Boasting a line-up as wildly diverse as it was entertaining, the task of selecting a favorite would be nigh impossible, but a selection of particularly memorable moments amid a whirlwind of noteworthy performances include:

  • the effortlessly charismatic and handsome Stephen Morallee, adding a spot of audience participation to his performance of the Gladys Knight classic, “Midnight Train to Georgia” (with his “Pips” Sharon Lenihan and Amy Drew providing a soulful backup duet – Woo, woo! indeed)
  • Suzi Woods’ delicious performance of Postmodern Jukebox’s swing arrangement of “All About the Bass,” evoking a sizzling old-school cabaret sensuality that would make Jessica Rabbit blush
  • Peyton’s soulful and searing musical take on Ben Harper’s song “I’ll Rise” (inspired by the beloved Maya Angelou poem)
  • angel-faced Miriam Reeves taking on the romantically sweet (if lyrically obscene) Alan Cumming song “Beautiful”
  • Luigi Castaldo’s spirited and energetic take on ABBA’s hit, “Waterloo,” injecting a bright dose of fun and spirited Eurovision camp into the mix.

While the odd lyric may be forgotten, or a note or two lands out of place, it all adds to the excitement and charm of possibly one of the most charming nights out to be enjoyed in London.

Harold’s Open Mic Party takes place on the second Thursday of every month and is due to return with Flower Power Party on May 10. Tickets sell out fast, so be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

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Gavin Brock

In addition to working full-time as a primary school teacher in London, Gavin is a composer, lyricist and children's author. His Christmas fantasy adventure novel ' Alabaster Snowball and the Naughty List' is published by Troubador. In 2023, his mini-musical 'Krampus Night' was produced by Indieworks Theatre Company, New York and featured in season two of the multi-award winning Bite-Sized Broadway podcast. For more information, please visit www.gavinbrock.co.uk