WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE?: the Other Palace (Studio)
Fra Fee repeats his award-winning West End role in Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman on Broadway from October and here proves what an outstanding musical performer he is.
- Read on for reasons including appearances from stars including Killian Donnelly
Of course he’s no stranger to musicals, having appeared in the film of Les Miserables (see below), but what impressed most here was what an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and warmhearted storyteller he is.
The 120-capacity studio at the Other Palace is an ideal venue for such an intimate show which took the form of a Seisún (a relaxed performance by musicians in an alcohol-fuelled atmosphere) with accomplished guest performers coming on and off stage to accompany Fee.
They included Killian Donnelly, who we reviewed on this site in Kinky Boots, and plays Jean Valjean in Les Miz for a UK and Ireland tour next year.
Fee’s flatmate Laura Jane Matthewson (who won an Evening Standard Award for Pasek and Paul musical Dogfight) also appeared as did singer Madalena Alberto and other bandmates including flautist Eimear McGeown, violinist Denice Doyle, bodhran player Tad Sargent and guitarist Declan Bennett.
Most touching was the encore with his sister Nan Fee and their rousing version of Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel’s touching Don’t Give Up not least because their parents were also in the audience.
Fee talked candidly about growing up gay in Northern Ireland, the need to escape and how he has come to terms with himself, most recently attending his first Pride event.
Set highlights included Rufus Wainwright’s The Art Teacher (where we finally understood all the words even after listening to the original many times), a mischievous Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before by The Smiths, and and a touching rendition of Pasek and Paul’s For Forever (see below) which looks to be the highlight from the West End-bound Dear Evan Hansen.
Donnelly informs us that across the street Prince Harry and his bride Meghan are in the audience for Hamilton and we suspect we’re the ones having the better time.
Fee plays piano, guitar and a variety of unexpected instruments including an accordion and flute. It’s in the Irish sections, especially with exceptional flautist McGeown that things really come alive.
The show reminded of John Barrowman’s triumphant Leicester Square Theatre gigs earlier this year but benefitted hugely from the relaxed band vibe.
That Fee has an impressive voice was never in doubt but what he also proved was what an engaging personality and tremendous musicality he also possesses. This was a real treat – and we’d love a repeat perhaps after his upcoming Broadway success.