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WELL-STRUNG & VARLA JEAN MERMAN – Leicester Square Theatre, London.

well-strungWell-Strung are my new favourite type of boy band … they can sing, they’re good looking, they do minimal choreography, can play their own instruments, dress smartly, and the kick is – they’re all classically trained… *swoon*  What’s not to love?!  Combining a mixture of classical music with current pop, you can’t help but smile throughout the entire show.

As each song starts, it’s a mind game of “Name That Tune”, which makes you feel proud of yourself when you’ve figured it out before it pops up on the screens side of stage.  They list the composers for the classical pieces, but the performers’ (full names and stage names) for the pop songs.  I never thought I’d hear Vivaldi and Beethoven at the same concert as Britney Spears, P!nk and Taylor Swift!

With each of them having striking looks, it’s hard not to compare them to four boys gracing the pages of the current magazines – Edmund Bagnell (first violinist / Zac Efron); Chris Marchant (second violist / a younger Channing Tatum), Trevor Wadleigh (violist / Jake Gyllenhaal) and Daniel Shevlin (cellist / a young Ronan Keating).

They have strong vocal harmonies, and clearly have great rapport, with subtle smiles to each other throughout the performance.  We also learn a little about each of the guys (including seeing some old family photos), telling us how they started, what they like, and there’s always a bit of humour thrown in along the way.  The show was directed and co-written by Donna Drake, who was an original Broadway cast member of A Chorus Line – so this is one woman who knows how to work a crowd!

The set is clear except for four chairs, which they maneuver throughout the performance, giving each track a fresh life by the ever changing seating arrangements.  There is even a moment where the boys ‘dance’ with each other, whilst still maintaining their playing of Carlos Gardel’s “Tango”.  It’s visually pleasing rather than a standard static classical concert.

Leaving their microphones on during the classical pieces allows us to hear the breath and intensity that goes into playing such loved pieces.

It’s a strange feeling wanting to sing along, yet feeling the restraints of the silence expected during a classical concert.  I feel as though a smaller venue would better suit, feeling a little more intimate and encompassing.

Well-Strung are sure to be compared to Two Cellos, who perform regularly with Sir Elton John. However having seen them also, I can assure you this is actually quite different and just as enjoyable.

This is Well-Strung’s first European Tour, winning the hearts of the ladies and men in the audience, so I’m sure they’ll be back.  Besides, who ever knew classical music could be so sexy?!

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VARLA JEAN MERMANEngergetically entering the stage, it’s hard not to take an instant liking to Varla Jean Merman. The reference to her “russian water”, the introductory song of “I Need A Hair Fan” (a mock of “I Need A Hero”) and her fast quips create a roar of laughter and you know you’re in for a fun set from this fabulous drag queen!

Her songs about Disney characters as hoares, and a selection of “alternative” book titles such as ‘Bi-Curious George’ are extremely clever and you can’t help but laugh. Changing the lyrics of “Quesera” makes you want to sing along, but your gasping under your smirk at some of the content.

With bright and brilliant outfits and an effervescent stage presence, you’ll be left wishing you could see more.

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Reviewed 19/09/2013

By Kate Hudspeth

19th – 21st Sep 2013
Leicester Square Theatre, London, WC2.

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