In 1996, a relatively unknown (but talented) singer passed away from melanoma, a form of skin cancer that affects 160,000 new people every year. This is tragedy enough of course, yet Eva Cassidy's story is made all the more poignant by several factors. She was only 33 years of age, she sang graceful cover-versions of lyrically emotive classics and yet she remained unknown and undiscovered, except within the circles of Washington-based friends, family and collaborators.
A few years after her death, Terry Wogan played the song, "Over the Rainbow", the weepie originally sung by a home-sick Dorothy in the film "Wizard of Oz", on his breakfast show. Rather than it being a loud and boisterous version, Cassidy approached it with candour and fragility and Radio 2 listeners lapped this up. The poignancy of Cassidy's situation hit home and suddenly, supplies of the subsequent posthumous album, "Songbird", started to dry-up in 2001. I remember the supplier, Hot Records in Brighton, initially struggling to keep up with demand - they'd probably never keyed in three digits in the 'quantity required' field before, certainly not for a single store order (we shifted 300 copies over one weekend in Croydon's Virgin Megastore).
The album finally reached number 1, but this wasn't just a flash in the pan fad - further collections such as "Imagine" and "American Tune" have also topped the chart and this year's "Simply Eva" collection reached number 4 - the legacy lives on.
To this end, the Over The Rainbow - The Eva Cassidy Show is a certainty for bums on seats. Given approval by the Cassidy estate, Theatre Productions' timely and respectful show has been packing out playhouses and theatres since 2004 and the 2011 run features pin-sharp performances from familiar faces, including Maureen Nolan, Sarah Jane Buckley (Hollyoaks), Alexis Strum (Persona). And Strictly Come Dancings Brian Fortuna. As well as members of the Eva Cassidy Band, images and footage of Eva herself, add to the undoubted lip-trembling atmosphere.
The show is currently on a seventh UK tour, which will continue in Halifax on 3rd October, Hereford (5th), Basingstoke (three nights), Whitley Bay (two nights) and many more. Finishing in November, a new tour starts in spring 2012, with dates in Richmond (12th Feb), York (14th) and Manchester (11th March).
Ticket prices vary depending on location, but many are priced from £20 upwards (plus fees) - check below for availability. Best take the Kleenex for an emotional rollercoaster!