Monday, 10 November 2014

Review: West End Recast 2 at the Phoenix Theatre

West End Recast 2
Phoenix Theatre
Reviewed on Sunday 9th November 2014

Providing West End stars the opportunity to sing songs from roles and shows they would never usually be cast in, West End Recast provided a hilarious night of theatrical joy. Following its previous performance at the Duchess Theatre earlier this year, last night the show played to a packed and appreciative audience at the West End’s Phoenix Theatre.

The overall tone was fun and light hearted, but also extremely supportive, making West End Recast the perfect stagey Sunday night concert. The talent of the cast was exceptionally high; it was nothing short of remarkable to see some of theatre's biggest stars as we've never seen them before.

Katie Rowley Jones had the time of her life performing a Grease medley as Kenickie, Oliver Hembrough rocked out as Horse from the Full Monty singing a hysterical rendition of 'Big Black Man' whilst Leon Lopez revealed a whole different side to Nancy with a rendition of 'As Long As He Needs Me'. Act one performances also included Rebecca Brewer singing 'Dentist' from Little Shop of Horrors and Jill Winternitz singing 'Finishing the Hat' from Sunday in the Park with George.

As the first half came to an end, Cynthia Erivo (pictured right) graced the stage to deliver the best rendition of 'Being Alive' from Company I have ever heard. Mid-show standing ovations seem to follow Erivo wherever she goes, with last night proving no exception. Without hesitation everyone in the stalls leapt to their feet when the performance ended.

I've reviewed Erivo so many times that I'm beginning to run out of synonyms to describe her extraordinary talents. She has the ability to stop time with her voice and make an audience listen to and feel every lyric to a song in a way in which nobody else can. It is always an honour to see her perform live.

Imelda who? Ending the first act was Nick Holder who took on the role of Mama Rose, performing the almighty number from Gypsy, 'Rose's Turn'. Another stand out from the first act was Jon Robyns who revealed his new look whilst belting out an incredibly impressive version of 'Out Tonight' as Mimi in Rent. Robyns has one of my favourite male voices in musical theatre, regardless of whether he is singing soul music or more traditional material his vocals never fail to blow everyone away.

Sabrina Aloueche opened the second act with a striking rendition of 'Heaven On Their Minds' from Jesus Christ Superstar. It has been far too long since I last saw Aloueche own a stage with her tremendous voice, her vocals are always phenomenal. Next up Gina Beck completely reinvented the song 'Maria' from West Side Story. It was an absolute joy to see her soar into her beautiful soprano range so effortlessly.

Michael Matus took on Annie, performing 'Tomorrow' whilst David Bedella revealed his inner Norma Desmond with a rendition of 'With One Look'. Musical treats also came from Fra Free whose performance of Your Daddy's Son from Ragtime was incredible and Nathan Amzi who performed 'I Am Changing' from Dreamgirls - he sang for his life!

From one green musical theatre character to another, Cassidy Janson performed 'Who I'd Be' from Shrek, adding a Wickedly-wonderful surprise at the end. Julie Atherton brought tears to my eyes with the most ridiculously, funny (and drunken) rendition of ‘Naughty’ from Matilda - that is how you reinvent a song!

Atherton spilt some of her wine during her song, so later when a stage hand ran on with a mop I didn't suspect a thing. The band (who were on fire all evening) suddenly started playing ‘Castle In A Cloud’ and much to everyone’s amusement the stage hand started mumbling the lyrics. Before we knew it the stage hand ripped off her clothes to reveal the fabulous Annette McLaughlin who proceeded to give one of the evening's most striking performances!

The majority of the evening's budget seemed to be spent on Daniel Boys who, after performing a sensationally funny duet from Miss Saigon with Jon Robyns, returned to the stage to perform 'Let It Go' from Frozen. There were fancy lights, confetti being shot left right and centre, as well as stairs being climbed for a dramatic climax - it was quite something! As usual Boys' vocals were impossible to fault.

Just when we thought it was all over, Erivo returned to the stage to perform a second number. This time she performed 'Memphis Lives In Me'. If they ever need a last minute understudy to play Huey in Memphis I'm sure people would queue round the block to see Erivo take on the role. She can do no wrong and can sing absolutely anything. While most people were sat at home watching The X Factor last night, Erivo showcased the true meaning of talent.

West End Recast was fantastic fun and I am already full of anticipation to see what the next one could possibly have in store.

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

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