Monday, 9 December 2013

Review: An Evening of Movies and Musicals at Christmas at the Apollo Victoria Theatre



An Evening of Movies and Musicals at Christmas
Apollo Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Sunday 1st December 2013


Last Sunday some of the West End's biggest stars came together with a fifty piece orchestra to celebrate some of the biggest songs from some of the best loved movies and musicals of all time. To welcome the festive season a few Christmas songs were added to the line-up. The evening was a huge success and was the perfect way to welcome in the festive season.

The orchestra, conducted by Matthew J Hampson, filled the huge stage at the Apollo Victoria and as they began playing the Star Wars theme I think the entire audience were taken aback by their tremendous sound. The evening showcased a good mix of songs and was broken up by instrumental sections which paid tribute to various movies including Jurassic Park, James Bond and E.T. The West End Gospel Choir also brightened up the theatre with their huge passion and presence for several numbers. 

The first West End star to step foot on the stage was current  Les Miserables cast member Sarah Lark who famously partook in 'I'd Do Anything'. Sarah gave a lively rendition of 'Blow Gabriel Blow' from Anything Goes and later returned in the second act to belt out a powerful yet heartbreaking 'As Long As He Needs Me', proving she would have been a worthy winner of Andrew Lloyd Webber's BBC casting show. My only complaint is that we didn't see more of Sarah throughout the evening! She has the most incredible voice and loveable personality which brightened up the stage.

Louise Dearman returned to the Apollo Victoria, where she previously made history when she became the first actress to play both Elphaba and Glinda in Wicked, for the evening. She first treated the audience to 'Home' from The Wiz which also features on her new album 'It's Time'. I loved the song on the album but loved it even more live. 'Home' fits Louise's voice perfectly and showcases her impressive vocal range and effortless vocal talents. In Louise's own words, she couldn't return to the Apollo Victoria without paying tribute to Wicked. Firstly it was interesting to watch her take on 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' from The Wizard Of Oz. She then later belted out a fearless version of 'Defying Gravity' from Wicked which left many open mouthed.

While Gareth Gates (pictured above) is best known for his music career in recent years he has become an established musical theatre performer, having played leading roles in Joseph, Les Miserables, Legally Blonde and Loserville. I am always very technical when it comes to reviewing vocal performances, and I was completely taken aback by his incredibly soulful rendition of 'His Eye Is On The Sparrow'. His vocal gymnastics were highly impressive! He then treated the audience to a strong performance of 'Unchained Melody' (why not?).

The entire show was stolen by John Owen-Jones (pictured right). Despite having played both the title role in The Phantom of the Opera and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables thousands of times it is remarkable that he still performs numbers from both musicals so sincerely. After performing songs such as 'Bring Him Home' and 'Music Of The Night' so many times it would be easy to give a lazy rendition but John certainly did not hold back.

The softer side of John's voice is so gentle and crystal clear whilst there is not a word to describe the power and strength when he hits those huge notes. John also performed his new single 'O Holy Night' which was one of my favourite performances of the evening, I have since downloaded the song which showcases his phenomenal range and ability to tell a story through song.

An Evening of Movies and Musicals at Christmas was hosted by the one and only Christopher Biggins who was in his element! He belongs on stage! At one point during the evening John Owen-Jones made a joke about Biggins who erupted into fits of laughter backstage. His mic wasn't on but you could still hear his bellowing, famous laugh right from the back of the stalls.

I have attended several of these theatrical concert shows this year and am yet to see one which doesn't feature a Les Miserables section. However, if I did I think I would be disappointed as even out of context Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil's score is overwhelmingly touching. The Christmas section which ended the evening was truly heart-warming. None of the performers took themselves too seriously which was nice as it made the atmosphere more relaxed.

An Evening of Movies and Musicals at Christmas was a hugely successful event. There weren't too many awkward moments and the audience seemed to leave with smiles on their faces. Four West End stars and a fifty piece orchestra is always going to be a recipe for theatrical bliss.  I can think of worse ways to spend a Sunday night!

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
andrew@westendframe.com
Photo Credit: Darren Bell / taken at Momentous Musicals

1 comment:

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