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Review: An Evening With Sean Ghazi with Special Guest Stephanie Reese

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Ever since winning the inaugural Fame Awards in 1995, it’s amazing how KL-based performer Sean Ghazi has yet to helm his own solo show in Singapore. But 22 years later, An Evening with Sean Ghazi is a show that was well worth the wait, as Sean and guest star American singer Stephanie Reese presented some of the greatest love songs from stage and screen in a single evening.

Sean couldn’t have picked a better venue to hold the gig than the Esplanade Recital Studio. Cozy and intimate from the moment Sean stepped out onstage to perform ‘Love Changes Everything’ (the song that helped him win him the Fame Awards in the first place), Sean made certain this was going to be a night of good songs, plenty of cheer and peppered with fun anecdotes.

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Sean is blessed with a deep voice that charms each time he speaks – silky and honeyed as he reprises the nostalgic ‘Song on the Sand’ from his role in W!ld Rice’s La Cage Aux Folles earlier this year. But it was very evident tonight that it’s not just his naturally alluring vocals that make him the man that he is; Sean had plenty of acting chops too, and delivered on honest, sincere emotion in big numbers such as ‘Out There’ from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and was a joy to watch as he danced around and looked like he was absolutely in his element.

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Although Sean headlines the show, An Evening with Sean Ghazi was never intended as a solo showcase. It wasn’t long before American-Filipina singer Stephanie Reese joined him onstage in her Singaporean debut, and introduced as one of Sean’s oldest and best friends, it only made sense that their first duet together would be ‘Amigos Para Siempre (Friends Forever)’, a song that they had performed together in Barcelona. Whether it was classic numbers such as ‘All I Ask For You’ or contemporary, more pop-like pieces such as ‘A Whole New World’, Sean and Stephanie shared an indomitable onstage chemistry that brought real emotion to the studio each time.

Stephanie herself is a real tour de force of a veteran singer. Commanding incredible stage presence, Stephanie’s solo numbers were all an absolute thrill to watch as she took on some of the most challenging songs throughout theatre history, from ‘Love Never Dies’ to . ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’, showcasing her versatility and adaptability in playing characters by shifting from a young ingenue to grand diva in the blink of an eye. And as if pre-empting the upcoming production of Evita coming to Singapore in 2018, Stephanie even covered ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’, a song to savour as she revelled in the role and delivered each word perfectly enunciated and hitting every single note with gusto.

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But ultimately, An Evening with Sean Ghazi is all about its duets. There’s a closeness that one felt as Sean and Stephanie addressed the audience with their many memorable anecdotes and memories of their time spent performing together, almost as if we were being reunited with old friends. Together, they make magic happen, and it’s no surprise how the two have remained friends for life, having shared hilarious moments such as having had a Caucasian Thai-accent teacher attempt to school them in the London Palladium’s The King and I (leading to a rendition of ‘We Kiss In A Shadow’), to discovering their reserved seats during the United Nations’ inaugural World Humanitarian Summit being unceremoniously labelled ‘Celeb #1’ and ‘Celeb #2’, leading to a wondrous rendition of Andrea Bocelli’s ‘The Prayer’ to end off the first half of the night and keeping us hungry for more.

The show was also well-accompanied by young, talented musicians Nish Tham on piano and Charmaine Lai on violin. Both of them were onstage the entire time and completely dedicated to their craft, delivering passionately rendered music and obviously playing their hearts out, completely in sync with Sean and Stephanie, and they show plenty of promise to go far in the music world.

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Finally, Sean and Stephanie ended off the show with ‘Someday’ from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a perfect song to remind us of the hope that we must hold on to even in these treacherous times, a timeless classic whose lyrics ring stronger than ever. But like any good showman, an encore was in order, and Sean and Stephanie returned almost immediately after to give us one very appropriate final song – ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ to ring in the holiday spirit.

An Evening with Sean Ghazi is one of those recitals that you’ll walk away from with a warmth in your heart and a feeling of love that characterises every step, a testament to and celebration of two phenomenal talents’ unbreakable friendship over the years. One can only hope that this marks the beginning of a beautiful and long-running new cross border relationship that grows in the years to come, and you’ll be sure that we’ll be catching Sean the next time he’s in Singapore, or better yet – taking a trip up to KL.

An Evening with Sean Ghazi plays at the Esplanade Recital Studio from 13th – 14th December. Tickets available from SISTIC

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