She The Musical

'She' in Holland 2011: A Review by Magdalena Grabias

Painted with Sounds and Colours

On September 3rd, 2011 the Zoetermeer Boerderij, was buzzing with life and excitement long before first guests arrived for the concert. Musicians, sound and light engineers, and the rest of the crew worked hard to secure the smoothness of the evening show.

Clive Nolan returned to Holland this time to entertain the European audience with his ambitious musical project 'She'. It is for the first time since theatrical performances in Bolivia in January 2010 that 'She' got performed on stage again. The event in Holland – the eight-man rendition of 'She' in concert - was quite a different experience from the very start. Nevertheless, even though devoid of lavish theatrical scenery, props and dancers, the show turned out to be equally attractive both musically and visually. But with such team of artists, so much talent and amount of hard work invested in the rehearsals, the eventual success of the spectacle was hardly surprising.

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Four musicians: Clive Nolan (keyboards), Mark Westwood (guitars), Scott Higham (drums) and Kylan Amos (bass) and four singers: Agnieszka Swita, Christina Booth, Alan Reed and David Clifford were accompanied by the Caamora Chorus projected onto the screen behind the artists. Even though in a digital form, the chorus contributed much to the powerful effect and overall reception of the musical. The screen also served as the means to enrich the show with the visual interpretation of the story. Graeme Bell's artwork triggered the imagination transferring the audience into the lost land of Kôr, the ancient kingdom ruled by Ayesha, 'She-who-must-be-obeyed'.

The lights went dim, the 'Overture' began, and out of the darkness Agnieszka Swita emerged on stage. Radiant with beauty only proper for the immortal Queen, she began the song. Quickly overcoming the initial disturbance caused by some technical sound problems, she carried on singing with confidence inviting the audience into the magic realm of 'She'. During the evening Agnieszka presented impressive range of vocal and acting skills in her commanding interpretation of 'Judgement' and 'Murder', deeply moving 'Shadows', the powerful scene of dying in "The Fire of Life', or one of the warmest and respite bringing songs in the musical, love duet 'The Night Before' shared with her stage romantic partner.

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The concert in Holland was special as much for the audience as for the band itself. The event was the occasion to officially introduce two new artists into the world of 'She' - the singer, David Clifford and the bass player, Kylan Amos. The show proved that both choices were right! Clifford, for the first time in the role of Leo on stage, sang with ease and dedication delighting the audience with the sublime timbre of his voice and passionate rendition of 'She'. As the leading character he harmonised ideally with Agnieszka's voice, ever-faultless Alan Reed and dazzling Christina Booth.

Alan and Christina, in their original roles, once again offered a first-class performance - a powerful blend of emotions, interpretative skills, artistic creativity and musical consciousness on the highest level. Bursting with energy, Alan Reed sang out the parts of Holly with a sharp voice setting an interesting contrast to Clifford's soft baritone, and pleasing the audience with solo songs, like 'History', and numerous duets, trios and quartets flawlessly performed throughout the show.

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Christina Booth as Ustane, shining with feminine charm and her usual glamour, recreated the role of a tragic leader of the Amahagger tribe succeeding to make the character more credible than in any of the previous shows. With never-faltering voice of a siren she tempted Leo in 'Bonding', mesmerised the audience with piercing sadness in 'Closer', and fascinated with strong determination in 'Rescue' and 'Ambush'.

It is probably the duets and set pieces, in which all the talents intertwined, that the audience enjoyed most. Not without a reason, since they provided the opportunity to almost tangibly experience the captivating battles of strength and power between Ayesha and Ustane in 'Confrontation' and 'Cursed', love struggles of Ayesha and Leo in 'Eleventh Hour' and 'Resting Place', Holly's and Leo's musings upon the unknown in 'The Storm', 'Fire Dance' and 'Embrace the Fire', as well as lavish orchestral and multivocal scenes like 'Ambush', 'Sands of Time' and the grand finale 'The Fire of Life', for which the cast was awarded with loud and long-lasting applause from the audience.

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Because of its concert formula, the night at De Boerderij varied significantly from the first version of the show as it is captured on the DVD recorded in Poland. Although decreased in number this time, music section proved that it does not take more than four talented instrumentalists to fill the venue with symphonic sound and rocking vibe. Mark Westwood played with lightness and precision of the string virtuoso matching the spacial sounds of his guitars with the pulsating rhythms of Kylan Amos' bass. Amos fitted into the band perfectly displaying high class artistry and musical sense. Next to clearly enjoying the show Westwood and Amos, Scott Higham played his newly designed theatre drum kit with charisma, passion and sublimity transforming his performance into a sophisticated spectacle of sound and sight.

Long essays could be written about the spiritus movens of 'She', the author and composer, Clive Nolan - his bands, achievements, skills and talents. That evening at De Boerderij he chose to hand over the splendour of being a romantic lead to another artist, and instead he was supervising the show from behind his keyboards. However, if this manoeuvre was an attempt to hide in the safety of otherwise impressive set of instruments, then the trick failed, for the charismatic musician kept attracting the eyes of the audience no less than the quartet of the main actors at the front of the stage. With content, from the first notes of 'Overture' till the last seconds of the show, lively and full of verve he was weaving the magic sounds colouring the show with virtuosity of his keyboard arrangements, creative taste and profound sensitivity of his musical genius.

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The Caamora show at De Boerderij was an international event. And, I daresay, the audience, who travelled long miles from France, Germany, Poland, England, Canada and other countries, did not leave the venue disappointed. 'She in Concert' was a spectacular performance painted with sounds and colours, turning one September night into the magic feast of light show and musical sensation.


Review by Magdalena Grabias
Photos by Miranda Bril
September 2011