‘The Stage’ newspaper has described Samantha’s vocal range as ‘remarkable’ and said that her voice is ‘perfection’. And spurred on by a series of sell-out shows and the best cabaret performance award at this year’s Shaftesbury Fringe, Samantha is embarking on a world tour, performing in South Africa, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
“I’m really looking forward to New Zealand,” said Samantha. “I’ve never been, but I really want to. I’m a huge nerd for Lord of the Rings, so I want to see all the sets and look at the locations!”
Samantha has two special skills that set her apart from most great singers. She has a remarkable ability to effortlessly recall complicated, lyric-laden songs from the musicals. And she’s quickly developed a fan base for her flawless replication of the vocal style of artists that you wouldn’t expect most 25-year-olds to know. Samantha can sound just like Vera Lynn, Cilla Black or Cher.
Her manager and partner, Andy Tebbutt-Russell, wants to take Samantha’s recent tribute to ‘The Seekers’, which debuted in Shaftesbury, down under. “The Seekers were all Australian. This is why we want to trial this in New Zealand. Diving straight into Australia, we’re not quite sure whether we might upset people. Although The Seekers are no longer performing, they are all still alive. We don’t want to be to directly compared with them because they are the originals,” said Andy.
Overseas audiences react differently to a home crowd. Samantha has performed in Japan previously and quickly noticed some significant cultural differences. “In Japan, if you are enjoying something, it’s customary to sit with your eyes closed. They listen really carefully. The whole audience looks like they are asleep,” Samantha said, adding, “Luckily I was warned. I knew that they were doing it in a respectful way. I’m excited to see what the other countries are like.”
During her world tour, Samantha will perform different sets in each country based on national tastes. And she knows which style will be big in Japan. “It’ll be a mixture of different songs from musicals. That’s really popular there and it’s my favourite thing to do,” Samantha said.
The Japanese love the musicals that are famous here. “The slightly older ones like Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and the Disney musicals. Maybe not so much the more recent ones,” said Samantha.
Incredibly, Samantha has also sung in Japanese. She used her ability to recall complex lyrics and phrasing to full effect, during that performance. “We had the official Disney translation of the song, ‘Feed The Birds’ from Mary Poppins. We found the Japanese version and I mimicked that. It was set out by a native Japanese speaker so I didn’t make a fool of myself,” she laughed.
Andy and Samantha founded the Shaftesbury Fringe and have remained closely involved with the festival, which has just hosted its third event. Their overseas tour starts on 31st May and will include similar festivals in the southern hemisphere.
“South Africa has their own equivalent of the Edinburgh Fringe – the Grahamstown Arts Festival,” said Andy. “That runs for a couple of weeks. We will travel to New Zealand, where we are hoping to do six or seven days. There aren’t so many appropriately sized venues there. Next, we travel to Adelaide, where they have a cabaret fringe. And then we go to Japan for one or two nights.”
Andy arranges travel, venues and the tour logistics, but it’s not as simple as just buying plane tickets and booking hotel rooms. “Each country is slightly different in its regulations. We are also doing three different shows. One of the shows has three musicians that we want to take with us. I have to arrange the work visas for the different countries and decide whether we’re taking props, sound equipment or hiring it when we get there. All of those things are different for each country,” Andy said.
So how is Andy deciding what type of show will work best in each country? “It’s more to do with the type of event we are going to,” said Andy. “The Grahamstown Fringe is a traditional fringe and a cabaret show is more appropriate than a musical show or The Seekers tribute act. New Zealand doesn’t have a fringe but they are big fans of The Seekers, so we are hiring theatres and creating our own tour and moving it around the country. Australia is specifically a cabaret fringe and the Japanese love musical theatre.”
All of these shows have been devised, rehearsed and have debuted in or around Shaftesbury. “As we’re local, we like to start things here as a matter of principle,” said Andy, adding that Shaftesbury is a very good place to try something out. “We have an enthusiastic audience here and fantastically well run arts centre, which is a joy to deal with,” Andy explained.
It sounds like a massive amount of work. So if Andy put the same effort and time into a UK tour he would surely make more money without the cost of international travel. So what is the motivation for doing this? “It’s a good question. It never crosses my mind, normally,” said Andy. “I tend to look at places and think that they would be interesting or fun to do. As long as it is not making a loss then I am happy. Neither of us are out to earn the maximum return in money terms. It has to be fun. It’s art. It’s for your enjoyment. Otherwise it gets stale,” Andy offered.
Andy and Samantha haven’t forgotten the home crowd. They are in the process of booking a well-known West End theatre for a London show. Andy says that he hopes to announce the venue and dates soon.