Voice of the Heart Karen Carpenter – Huntingdon Hall, Worcester

Reviewed by Garry and Helen McWilliams

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Back in May 2013 we were invited to review this must-see show and Helen took the lead in writing the review which can be found here: https://breakalegreviewblog.wordpress.com/reviews-3/page/2/

Now it’s Garry’s turn and we were delighted to review a second time, almost 18 months later. Voice of the Heart remains a foot-tapping sing-along evening and it is suitable for all ages. You also don’t need to be a fan of the Carpenters to have a good night out watching this show, it truly is a fantastic night out in its own right – it just so happens that Carole Gordon sounds remarkably like the lady whose hits she is singing. There is a new band member, following the sad loss of Bob Gordon who not only added excellent bass guitar to the ensemble, but also wonderful backing vocals. He is missed, but the line-up are truly superb and must be commended for continuing with their tour.

Opening with ‘Sing A Song’ is an inspired selection and it is one of the notable numbers where Carole’s voice particularly stands out. ‘For All We Know’ is Helen’s favourite, short and sweet providing yet another great opportunity for the lead vocalist to shine. We both noted the clarity of the harmonies on this occasion, Rachel Dean on backing vocals is a class act – this is the third time we have heard Gordon and Dean sing together and they compliment one another perfectly.

Carole connects with each song completely and we felt every word that she was singing, the Carpenters music can be likened to an emotional journey, and that is the over-riding feeling from this show. ‘Touch Me When We’re Dancing’, ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ and ‘Goodbye To Love’ were easily our personal highlights, not forgetting ‘Superstar’ which Carole describes as an “audience choice”, she’s right, it just wouldn’t be right if that track wasn’t included in the set.

The band are well chosen and there is not one weak link among this talented group. Gordon Godwin has joined on bass guitar, there’s also Andy Saphir who is not only a skilled guitarist but contributes amazingly to the harmonies. Mat Newton on piano/synths is the musical director and consistently first-rate, as is John Blackburn on drums. We were really looking forward to seeing Carolyn Lawford again, she is multi-talented indeed, playing saxophone, flute and clarinet – and of course, she didn’t disappoint.

It’s an all-round evening of entertainment as Gordon develops a natural rapport with the audience and has a very natural interactive style. Indeed, it’s an altogether warm and welcoming banter which adds an extra dimension to the show. Go and see it, what more can we say!

Please see http://www.voiceoftheheart.co.uk for details of forthcoming shows and to book tickets.

Break A Leg Review Interview: Rachel Dean

Interviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams
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(Carole Newman (Karen Carpenter sound-a-like) and Rachel Dean)

There are two shows currently touring the UK at the moment that Break A Leg Review would like to bring to your attention: Voice of the Heart Karen Carpenter Show and Forever in Blue Jeans. Singing her heart out in both shows is the lovely Rachel Dean and we were fortunate enough to catch up with her in her home town of Stafford where Voice of the Heart Show were performing at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre.

So, Rachel – you’re back in your home town, are you excited to be performing here at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre?
Oh, its brilliant to be back, the Theatre has changed a lot since I was last here. As this is my home town I have a lot of people in tonight including my mum and dad!

Do you come back home quite regularly?
I have two homes, really, Southsea is also my home and where I currently live – but I do return to Stafford as often as I can and I have recently been to Lichfield Garrick Theatre (in the audience this time) as my Dad performs with Lichfield Operatic Society and they perform at the Garrick.

Did you always want to be a singer?
I wanted to be a dancer when I was growing up, but I got to an age where I was told it was unlikely I would grow much taller and therefore I wouldn’t be tall enough to be a leading dancer. It was suggested to my parents that they pushed my singing and I had singing lessons.

We gather you are connected with The Lion King in the West End?
Yes, I was front of house at the Lyceum Theatre for eight years, I appeared in Casper the Musical while I was there. I also started to take singing lessons again during my time there so that I didn’t ‘lose it’. I was told by my singing teacher at that time that it doesn’t matter where the stage is that you’re performing on or the size of it, a stage is a stage, that has stayed me throughout my career.

Would you like to return to a musical?
No, I like The Voice of the Heart Show and Forever in Blue Jeans and as long as they’re happy to have me, I’m happy to stay.

Tell us about the two shows…
The show you’re watching tonight (Voice of the Heart) is a tribute to Karen and Richard Carpenter and is a celebration of their music. Carole Newman who sings as Karen tells the audience that she isn’t trying to be like Karen or look like her. The show is relatively new in comparison to ‘Blue jeans’ and started because audience members from ‘Blue Jeans’ commented that during the Carpenters medley that we performed, Carole sounds like Karen and that could be a show by itself. Forever in Blue Jeans is a mixture of many types of music, all of which you can sing along to and we don’t stop – we’re on and off stage all night. Voice of the Heart has challenged my vocal range as I used to sing the middle (the tune) in Forever in Blue Jeans and now I sing the top as Carole is singing the tune.

Finally, Rachel – what would your advice be to anybody wishing to ‘follow in your footsteps’?
I’d say just keep going because if you’re going to do it – you’ll do it!

We’d like to thank Rachel for chatting to us while the team were in the midst of a sound check! The show was fantastic – see review here: https://breakalegreviewblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/voice-of-the-heart-karen-carpenter-stafford-gatehouse-theatre/

Voice of the Heart Karen Carpenter – Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams

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We’re on the top of the world looking down on creation and the only explanation we can find – is the most wonderful evening we enjoyed at the theatre in the company of the marvellous cast of ‘Voice of the Heart Karen Carpenter’. Karen and Richard Carpenter possessed one of the most unique and recognisable sounds during their ‘era’ and continue to be exceedingly popular with many age groups, today. This was proved by the age range in the packed house at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre last night. Carole Gordon who sings as ‘Karen Carpenter’ doesn’t pretend to be a tribute artist by trying to look like her idol, yet her voice is uncanny, because we closed our eyes and we were in the presence of ‘Karen’ as far as we were concerned. Carole has one of the best voices that we have heard in a long time and to sound like such a talented and well-loved artist as well, is a talent to be treasured.

The band are simply amazing, there’s Musical Director Mat Newton who plays synths and piano, Andy Saphir who is fascinating to watch as he plays three different guitars throughout the course of the evening. John Blackburn is outstanding on drums, Carolyn Lawford is multi-talented playing flute, saxophone and clarinet beautifully and Rachel Dean on backing vocals helps to create beautiful and technically difficult harmonies. Completing the line-up is Bob Newman who is Carole’s husband and plays bass guitar as well as providing backing vocals. Indeed all members of the band assist with backing vocals and produce the right sound for a Carpenters themed show.

There were many old favourites on the set list, including: For All We Know, Close To You, A Kind of Hush and Superstar (an audience choice). Surprises were introduced throughout the evening, some of which were Beatles numbers recorded in the Carpenters’ inimitable style, ‘Ticket To Ride’ and ‘Help’ were our particular favourites. The medley that was selected towards the end of the second act show-cased each member of the band and gave an opportunity for Rachel Dean to demonstrate lead vocals with ‘End of the World’ – a memorable song for all the right reasons. Also a lively number that had the audience member bopping in their seats was ‘Fun Fun Fun’ which was sung superbly by Bob Newman.

A couple of songs from ‘Voice of the Heart’ album were included and they brought tears to our eyes as they followed a commentary from Carole relating to the year that this album was made. It was recorded in 1983 and therefore the last album that Karen Carpenter ever recorded. It was clear throughout the show that Carole idolises Karen and as she told us after the show, when she first heard Karen’s voice, she was pleased to share the same vocal range. However we believe that more than just the vocal range is similar and she truly has to be heard to be believed.

With an impressive following and a fantastic rapport with the audience, this show is highly recommended by us and by visiting http://www.voiceoftheheart.co.uk you will find tour dates and booking information.

For an interview with Rachel Dean have a read here: https://breakalegreviewblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/interview-with-rachel-dean/

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