Saturday, 30 August 2014

Review: Hamlisch at the St James Theatre

St James Theatre
Reviewed on Sunday 24th August 2014

Alex Parker's latest concert saw a cast of fresh and established West End talent take to the St James Theatre alongside a sublime orchestra to celebrate the career and music of Marvin Hamlisch. Prior to seeing last year's West End revival of A Chorus Line I was unfamiliar with Hamlisch's work; however, after falling in love with the show I soon discovered just how extraordinarily varied his career was.

Many associate Marvin Hamlisch with his biggest musicals - A Chorus Line and Sweet Smell of Success - but don't realise that he was awarded Oscars, Tonys, Grammys and Emmys as well as the Pulitzer Prize! He successfully worked in many different fields but his work is so consistent - the style is simple and delicate but very moving and honest. Despite Hamlisch's career being extremely successful it is rare to see his work performed in London, so it was nothing short of a delight to see Parker's concert celebrate Hamlisch's music with such respect and attention to detail.

The core ensemble of singers rarely left the stage and performed with tremendous consistency. Stand out performances came from Michael Colbourne and Christina Bennington, but I must stress how strongly all the cast performed. Mentions must also go to Andy Conaghan and Rob Houchen who both nailed their solo numbers.  

I loved hearing the company performing some of my favourite Marvin Hamlisch numbers, as well as songs I love but didn't even realise Hamlisch wrote, plus material from his flops and unknown work. Alastair Knights made the perfect host, introducing each section with charm and wit.

The sensational Louise Dearman also made several special appearances throughout the evening. Her vocals soared during 'At the Ballet' and dazzled during 'The Way We Were' which Hamlisch famously wrote for Barbra Streisand. The evening concluded with a magnificent rendition of 'What I Did For Love' which was led by Dearman.

Parker's arrangements and musical direction cannot be faulted. It seems there is nothing he cannot do and I am already looking forward to seeing whatever he does next.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Read our Hamlisch interviews with Michael Colbourne & Rob Houchen

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