Soho Songs

A new song cycle celebrating the wonder of Soho and it’s characters by Barb Jungr and Mike Lindup with direction by Benji Sperring. 

SOHO SONGS 2.0 Reviews


The cosily intimate Crazy Coqs, located on the edge of Soho, with its glitzy interior hinting of art deco, feels like the perfect venue for staging the wistfully reflective “Soho Songs”  – an exciting new song cycle in progress, highlighting the lives of people who inhabit the area, its character and how its changing.  

In the way that the name Hollywood implies so much more than a neighbourhood of LA, to most Brits, Soho is not so much a dream factory as redolent of every kind of off duty distraction on offer, along with a smorgasbord of seamier pleasures to sample.  Songwriters Barb Jungr and Mike Lindup (Level 42) have cleverly composed musical snapshots of Soho life around a typical day in the Shangri-La, a single public house struggling to stay open, and whose ever shifting clientele from dawn to dusk provide the subject matter for the songs  It’s a brilliant concept and one that should have legs.

The songs were performed with considerable style and gusto by 5 exceptional vocalists in a variety of formations – 2 women (Emma Salvo and Hannah Nuttall) and 3 men (Will de Renzy Martin, James Gulliford and Stephen Lambert), each having their moment out front.  They were backed by the very accomplished trio of Mike Webborn (piano and musical director), Doug Brennan (bass) and Jonathan Lee (drums).  

The musical performance alone was worthy of 5*, but as a cohesive show, it is probably still not quite fully realised.  It is a work in progress after all.   In some ways, it felt too intense – you’ve barely finished digesting the import of one song when you’re onto the next.  Having said that, appetite whetted, I also felt hungry for more.  I hope there is scope for one or two more songs and also some opportunity to reprise some of the musical themes.  There is no between songs chat – the director makes use of fairly short audio clips with thoughts and experiences of (presumably genuine) Soho characters.  Whilst this seemed a touch clunky at times, Benji Sperring’s direction is otherwise suitably understated with, I think some limited use of costume, and some well judged, subtle in character acting by the vocalists.  

The song cycle itself is clearly the work of a master craftsman/woman.  Every song is lyrically rich and smart, laced with wry humour (reminiscent of Clive James’ work long ago with Pete Atkin).  For this reason, I would hope that in future, audience members can get access to a  lyric sheet.  Why hide such craft away?  The arrangements are excellent – superbly imaginative and well executed and the song cycle covers a breadth of musical styles and tempos that render every song fresh and helps build engagement throughout the show..  

For me, the standout song of the evening was the beautiful, melancholic  “Your Heart in My Hand” performed immaculately by Will de Renzy Martin.  It has the air of a future songbook standard about it.  A number of other songs are candidates to be audience favourites and some, potential hits.  The witty, semi spoken “Estate Agent” would likely resonate with many.  I loved the US parade ground call and response swing of the pit musician song, the immediately catchy disco beat of “Nice Girls Shouldn’t Go to Soho” and the funky boogie of the formidable “Bouncer Man”.  “Kit on, Kit off” has some delightful melodic variations and the Shangri-La landlady’s “Every Kind of Blue” is wonderfully world weary.  Following the love torn “Heart in my Hand”, the song cycle ends with the harmony rich, deep nostalgia of  “Dreaming of Soho”.

Even as a work in progress, Soho Songs is simply 75 minutes of incredible music and more importantly, superb, satisfying entertainment.  Thoroughly recommended.

Review by Phil Brown


Barb Jungr is no stranger to The Crazy Coqs cabaret venue at Zedel in the heart of London, regularly bringing her talents there to perform a variety of shows including her recent Immigrant Songs.. This time around, she was there in a different capacity – presenting a new work in progress show she has written with Mike Lindup but does not perform in herself – Soho Songs. Fittingly performed in the heart of Soho, I excitedly watched to see a brand new show, still in its infancy, Soho Songs is a collection of songs written about… you guessed it, Soho. All standalone in their story, this song cycle doesn’t have a narrative but are all linked by their location and events that happen in this infamous area. Only the second time this work has been aired publicly following a previous outing at the same venue last year. For this performance, a cast of five were assembled to bring these new musical numbers to life. They were Hannah Nuttall, Emma Salvo, James Guilford, Stephen Lambert and Will De Renzi-Martin. With a mix of solos, duets and group numbers, they showed fantastic characterisation as they embodied the 14 versatile numbers.

Among the numbers were songs centred around particular professions you may come across in Soho with James, Stephen and Will taking on the eccentric and ‘The Bin Workers Song’ and the brilliantly monotone and passive aggressive ‘Bouncer Man’ in what was a highlight of the evening. Other themes throughout the show were estate agents, pit musicians and trafficked girls – all interesting in subject but not all managed to land as effortlessly as others. The most satisfyingly sensational number was ‘Swing To The Lead’ led by Emma Salvo – fabulously telling the story of the incredible swings that make up the lifeblood of the theatre and what happens when one of them has to go on for the lead. A fantastic demonstration of Barb and Mike’s ability to tell a story through song, the witty lyrics made this the undoubted standout of the night. This was a work in progress show and as such, some of the numbers did fall flat in comparison to the others. ‘Save The Shangri La’ felt under-developed in comparison to other numbers, while ‘Kit On, Kit Off’ lacked any sort of impact and seemed to plod along without a great sense of satisfaction. While some songs felt more put together than others, even the ones that still clearly needed a bit of work were full of potential.

The five performers on hand each had their own moments to shine and repeatedly proved what fine talents they were – be it Emma Salvo’s expressive characterisation, Hannah Nuttall’s ability to steal a moment, the glorious singing voices of Stephen Lambert and Will de Renzy-Martin or the versatile but always captivating approach to James Guilliford’s multiple characters. Each were a marvel to witness and managed to believably become the various weird and wacky people in each song. Barb Jungr and Mike Lindups writing exhibits a beautiful quality, full of depth and comedy. Their ability to craft a story in several minutes from beginning to resolution is incredibly impressive and with Soho Songs they have created an interesting song cycle that could prove to be unstoppable. While it may still need some tweaks, there is no denying the calibre of the writing behind it. It feels a bit harsh to review a show that has been explicitly stated as a work in progress as the work needed to be done is clear to see. Is the show where it needs to be yet? Not quite, but do I think it can get there? Absolutely. There is something special buried away in this collection of songs – with a bit more development, I believe Soho Songs could be exceptional.

Review by Daz Gale


A new song cycle celebrating the wonder of Soho and it’s characters by Barb Jungr and Mike Lindup with Peter Glanville.

“This tale of a formidable yet resilient part of central London is recognisable and relatable to those of us who know it, and an eye-opening revelation to those who don’t.” 

★ ★ ★ ★ London Theatre World

"Barb Jungr and Mike Lindup conjure that unique flavour in a song cycle that pulled memory after memory from my mind - the squalor and the glitz, the alienation and the camaraderie, the despair and the hope.” 

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Broadway World