GSA Showcase

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GSA Showcase

London’s Crazy Coqs showcases a new generation of cabaret talent

March 11, 2019

By Fiona Coffey for Cabaret Scenes

A collaboration between Julian Woolford, head of Musical Theatre at the Guildford School of Acting; Gary Williams, international cabaret singer; and Live at Zédel’s Head of Events Andy Hornby, has produced an exciting and original line-up of five new cabaret shows over two days on April 7 and 8, premiered at London’s Crazy Coqs.

Woolford tasked eight of his students with the requirement to create a 45-minute to one-hour show with a viability beyond the showcase, offering top class support with Peter Roberts as MD and Gary Williams as external mentor. Launching the initiative, Woolford explains: “The MFA in Musical Theatre is the only post-graduate course of its kind in Europe. At this level, students need to be in charge of their own learning. Cabaret challenges them to take control of all aspects of performance from theme, choice of material, to their USP (unique selling proposition) as a performer.”

It’s been a joy for Williams, who has built an enormously successful international career as a master of swing-era jazz and is also author of the performers’ bible Cabaret Secrets. He enthuses, “I’m hugely proud of them all. For someone like me who’s been doing this for over 20 years, it’s quite something to see the natural instincts of these young people. They sing wonderfully, have bags of confidence, and most important of all, they have great stories to tell.” The struggles of African-heritage women, a messy break-up, and growing up gay in Christian America are some of the intriguing themes chosen by these cabaret artists in the making.

Performer Aysa Toney has found the experience both exciting and challenging. “I’m creating something that leaves me so vulnerable. It’s thrilling and terrifying. Coming from a musical theater background, I am much more comfortable playing a character, but here there is no character, it’s just me.” Tyler Palo echoes: “One piece of Gary’s advice that has stuck with me is his emphases on vulnerability. It’s the intimate feeling that makes it cabaret.” For Heather Hill, it’s the chance to reconnect with both the joys of writing and the energy of a live audience. “I love being able to share my experiences and possibly help someone who is going through the same thing. I can only sing to a studio wall for so long!”

There’s a palpable sense of excitement around this initiative, with every chance that it will extend beyond these first five shows. Hornby certainly seems to think so. “At Crazy Coqs, we are always looking to nurture upcoming talent and offer a platform to showcase new work. We hope this opportunity will be the start of a significant relationship for years to come, with both GSA itself and the students as their careers flourish”.

The GSA Showcase Program takes place on April 7 and 8 at London’s Crazy Coqs. Details (with thanks to Gary Williams for the show summaries) are as follows:

April 7, 3:00 pm Where to Next?

Kenni Chomyn and Kate Beach share the ups and downs of moving their lives across the world from Canada to London in a funny, heart-breaking, and hectic show packed with great songs from The Drowsy Chaperone, The Beverley Sisters, and ABBA.


April 7, 5:15 pm Luminescence

From Salt Lake City, Utah, to Piccadilly Circus, Tyler Palo has traveled across the world in pursuit of his goal to be ‘a light’: a source of positivity and good energy. With a great voice and bags of charm, Tyler chooses songs from The Book of Mormon to SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical.


April 7, 7:30 pm American Pharoah

Asya Toney explores the misrepresentations, misunderstandings, and triumphs of black women throughout the ages. Expect a few surprises as she tackles this challenging subject with a fabulous soundtrack including classics like “It’s a Man’s World,” “Ava Maria,” and “I Will Survive.”


April 8, 7:00 pm [Untitled]: A Story of Love, Loss & Moving On

Through a mashup up of terrific Broadway songs (From Carousel to Hamilton), Heather Hill’s [Untitled] explores self-discovery, sexuality, and how to heal the wounds someone has left behind. An emotional roller-coaster with a feel-good message.


April 8, 9:15 pm: The Last Cabaret on Earth

1999, 2012, 2018… The end is nigh… again! David Steven, Tom White, and Zoe Yan in The Last Cabaret on Earth put together an homage to the end of days with songs from Dear World, Everyday Rapture, Candide, and many others. It’s deeply moving to laugh-out-loud, with superb harmonies and a belting soundtrack.