6th November 2023
We’ve frequently covered the Barn Theatre‘s ambitious online theatre productions in recent months, with previous online shows including Henry V, Marry Me a Little, Peter Pan and What A Carve Up. We weren’t going to miss out on their latest production, The Secret Society of Leading Ladies. If there was a word to describe this show, ambitious is certainly it. The concept of this concert style production is that a group of leading ladies from a host of musicals have been brought together. The twist is that they’ve been brought together by you, the viewer. As the show goes on, you get to choose the 5 leading ladies you want to see perform. This is musical theatre meets Bandersnatch!
Ryan Carter conceptualised the production and acted as creative director. What he was created is so clever and this concept definitely has potential to be used for bigger and better productions in the future I’m sure. I, for one, am excited to see what Carter will do in his new role as Creative Director of Digital Projects for the Barn Theatre. Leo Munby was musical consultant for the show and he did an excellent job. Although all the accompaniment was electronic rather than played by a live band, it still sounded excellent. Jamie Scott-Smith’s videography is excellent. The film and sound quality is impeccable – quite possible the best I’ve seen for an online production! At times, it can feel slightly clunky when characters are having conversations but this has to be expected for the first show like this and for an interactive show with so many combinations to choose from.
The Secret Society of Leading Ladies is made up with some of the best female talent in the UK. There is a grand total of 14 performers to choose from. You get to watch five in each concert, with a finale including all 14. I could easily comment on all of these fabulous leading ladies but I’ll just share a few highlights here.
Jocasta Almgill (& Juliet, Rent) takes on the role of Shelby from Steel Pier, a show I don’t know personally. Her performance is full of energy and great fun and her vocals are truly outstanding. Liverpudlian performer Kelly Sweeney (Hair, Six) is equally full of energy as Princess Fiona and her voice is beautiful.
Emma Kingston (In the Heights, Evita) is famously a powerhouse vocalist and she more than does justice to Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad from Bonnie and Clyde. Claudia Kariuki (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, School of Rock) also blows the roof off with her rendition of Fabulous Baby. It’s a fantastic opening number for the show, should you choose that option!
Kayla Carter (Rent) is stunning as Dorothy and her Somewhere Over The Rainbow is gorgeous. It’s lovely to have a softer song in the mix as well and she hits the top soprano notes with ease. Lauren Byrne (Six, Beautiful) is outstanding as Anya from Anastasia. Her rendition of Journey to the Past is just perfect and she brings her own flare to it brilliantly.
For me, it was Kayleigh McKnight that was the standout performance. Hot off the back of being a featured vocalist in Hugh Jackman’s world tour, she takes on the role of mean girl Regina George in this show. Her vocals are sensational and she makes the famously hard song World Burn look and sound easy. Her stage presence is strong and she completely holds the attention of the audience.
The Secret Society of Leading Ladies is great fun and a great new twist on a musical theatre concert. With an excellent line up of talent, be sure to catch this production between 22nd February and 7th March 2021. Tickets can be purchased from the Barn Theatre’s website. You can either buy a livestream ticket where you can watch the show through once or you can buy a multi show ticket which gives you 24 hours access to watch as many combinations of leading ladies as you like. Click here to get your tickets!