Entering to an acapella version of Irving Berlin’s classic “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” it is clear that Tucker believes it completely, winning over the Cadogan Hall quickly with a setlist of her album tracks plus a few surprises.
Her guest stars are her son, 10 year old Ben Retallack, who shows some prowess as a drummer in “Uptown Funk”, and Jamie Muscato, who adds his own energy to their duets of Billie Eilish’s “Happier Ever After” and Tina Turner’s “Proud Maty”.
If you haven’t already heard the new album, you could enjoy it here starting with the pulsing beat of Free’s “All Right Now” and ending with a beautiful arrangement of The Waterboys’s “Whole of the Moon”.
This album is about family, travelling, and finding home – Tucker has lived in three countries in the past few years (England, USA, Northern Ireland), and knows both the travel routine and the moments of separation.
It uses relationship songs (“I’m Gonna Be Strong” (for me a Gene Pitney song, for her Cyndi Lauper) in the first half, “Following the River” by the Rolling Stones in the second) to bring in a bit of drama.
The new arrangements also reinterpret musical theatre numbers from Waitress (“Everything Changes”) and My Fair Lady (“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”) to reflect on motherhood and family stability.
It’s in musicals where Tucker is still best known, and doesn’t disappoint legions of loud Wicked fans by looping “Defying Gravity” out of Come From Away‘s “Me And The Sky”.
The second half opens with The Bridges of Madison County‘s “It All Fades Away” and also includes Sunset Boulevard‘s “As If We Never Said Goodbye” (a role Tucker is playing at the Savoy, but only on Mondays).
Seeing Rachel Tucker in Concert is a privilege: her vocals are versatile and powerful; she is as happy sending herself up (“Tucker With a T” appropriating Liza) as finding the deep emotion in “He’s My Boy” from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
She’s a “rock chick at heart”, and clearly loves her family, pointing them out in the audience and commenting on seeing New York through her son’s eyes, and reflecting on how she got to where she is now.
The band, led by musical director Sam Young, is excellent, with guitars, strings, drums, and piano. A version of Lewis Capaldi’s “Before You Go” tugs at the heartstrings while stripping back proceedings to voice and keys.
With “It’s Time” (Imagine Dragons), “Party of One” (Brandi Carlisle) and “I’m Home” (an original song by Caroline Kay) we enter introspective territory, with an open heart and a pop-country feel.
This was a smashing night from one of theatre’s leading lights. After Sunset, a new version of Side Show beckons while over on BBC NI you can watch Tucker’s acting in the third series of Hope Street.
Rachel Tucker in Concert was at Cadogan Hall on 5 Nov. Follow her website for details on the album and future engagements.