Reviewed by Nikki Cotter
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Hot on the heels of her final Waitress performance and ahead of opening as Motormouth Maybelle in the London Coliseum production of Hairspray this April, Marisha Wallace has embarked on her first ever UK tour; launching with a bang last night at Sale’s Waterside Arts venue.
Bursting onto the stage looking spectacular in silver sequins and white marabou feathers Marisha proves she means business opening with a stunning rendition of Etta James’ Something’s Got A Hold on Me.
Accompanied by a four-piece band led by musical director Ross Stanley and two soulful backing singers, Marisha’s warm personality and magnetic charisma shine through as she opens up to her audience through frequent heartfelt exchanges between songs. Announcing that when she first performed in public aged just 5 years old she forgot all the words, it’s safe to say she had no such problem last night as she promptly treated the excited audience to a superb rendition of Stevie Wonder’s I Was Made To Love Her.
It’s clear to see that soul runs through her veins and the music she listened to growing up as a child in North Carolina has really shaped her as an incredibly expressive performer who communicates not only with her voice but with her whole being. She is an absolute natural on stage, incredible to think at aged just 17 she was told she may never sing again due to a cyst on her vocal chords which following the prayers of her parents miraculously disappeared when she went for surgery leaving scar tissue in its place.
The varied set list has been lovingly created catering perfectly for all tastes, Act 1 is made up largely of soul classics with a lively rendition of Tina Turner’s River Deep Mountain High ensuring this party gets well and truly started while Marisha’s version of The Bee Gee’s How Deep Is Your Love is as emotional as it is pure.
There’s well-chosen tracks from musical theatre with a heartbreakingly beautiful performance of Heart of Stone from musical theatre phenomenon SIX which is given a goose-bump inducing gospel spin while Marisha explains to the audience how the lyrics speak to her, “A heart of stone to me means that love is resilient, that I have loved before and I truly believe my resilient heart means I have the capacity as we all do to love again”. This level of honesty combined with her unquestionable talent endear her to her audience so completely they literally hang on her every word.
She closes Act 1 will a sensational Aretha Franklin medley, a tribute to the legendary singer whom she met backstage when the star came to watch Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway, you can’t help but think how much joy her performance would bring to the late great Aretha.
Act 2 opens with Marisha’s catchy new single Fight Like A Woman, a sassy, strong pop anthem entirely fitting for International Women’s Day; she then continues her celebration of iconic performers with a high-energy tribute to the woman she describes as ‘The Voice’ the one and only Whitney Houston. Lapping up this upbeat medley the audience leap to their feet in approval before Marisha silences the room with a powerhouse performance of I Will Always Love You, nothing short of phenomenal, the audience once again up on their feet.
A rousing rendition of I Know Where I’ve Been from Hairspray gives the audience a hint of what they can expect from the forthcoming West End production while Marisha gives us an insight into just how much of a life changer her roles in the West End have been. As her career soared, she faced heart-breaking times in her personal life and through the roles she’s undertaken has developed an optimistic resilience which leads her beautifully into a special version of Tomorrow from Annie blended with Chaka Chan’s moving Love Me Still.
Inviting children from Stagecoach Salford and Manchester Contemporary Youth Choir to join her in an empowering performance of This Is Me from The Greatest Showman allows an opportunity for another inspiring reminder that, “anything is possible, if you just believe in yourself” and of course another standing ovation, the forth or fifth of the show at least, we lost count!
Of course, no performance would be complete without Marisha treating the audience to her jaw-droppingly perfect delivery of And I Am Telling You from smash-hit musical Dreamgirls, this one song is without doubt worth the ticket price alone, stunning from start to finish.
As cries of ‘More’ ring out from the audience Marisha returns to the stage treating us to one final classic, ending the night on the most joyful of highs with a fabulous rendition of Proud Mary, there’s strutting, sass and even an opportunity for some great fun audience participation.
Marisha Wallace’s genuine warmth and incredible talent ensure this is an unforgettable night. Her voice is sublime, smooth as honey and strong as hell. She takes you on an emotional journey with her refreshing honestly while her note perfect delivery will completely blow you away. Talent like hers is rare, so grab your opportunity to witness it while you can!
Tour dates for Marisha Wallace can be found here.