Monday, 20 July 2015

Editor's Blog: Another standing ovation for Cynthia Erivo, Connie Fisher sings once more & Wicked launches For Good programme

Cynthia Erivo
Yesterday (19th July), Cynthia Erivo took to the stage at the Charing Cross Theatre for her final London solo concert appearance before heading off to Broadway. Following in the footsteps of Gavin Creel, Janie Dee, Louise Dearman and Kerry Ellis, Erivo's show was part of the ongoing Singular Sensations series which sees West End stars perform a selection of songs and being interviewed by Edward Seckerson.

Kicking things off with 'Don't Rain On My Parade' from Funny Girl (Erivo later admitted Fanny Brice is a role she would love to sink her teeth into), the West End and soon-to-be Broadway star was on top form (as usual). Being interviewed live in a spotlight in front of a packed audience must be a little daunting, yet Erivo took it all in her stride and soon warmed to the atmosphere. She is a beautiful storyteller, bouncing off the audience who were engaged throughout.

It was fascinating to hear about Erivo's path to stardom; it's safe to say she's never picked the easy option and has got to where she is today - one of the most respected and versatile young performers in British theatre - through sheer determination. She has fire in her belly and doesn't shy away from ambition which is actually quite refreshing. She's sensible but not afraid to aim high.

Erivo with Color Purple co-stars Jennifer Hudson & Danielle Brooks

The performances kept coming strong; there was a bit of West Side Story and some Aretha Franklin, but my stand out number was 'Still Hurting' from The Last Five Years. Jason Robert Brown is a composer who can express and pinpoint emotion like nobody else and Erivo is a performer who exposes her vulnerability and interprets music like nobody else - needless to say Erivo singing a Robert Brown worked an absolute treat. Her rendition was sheer perfection.

Erivo also performed her self-penned track 'Fly Before You Fall' and revealed she is in the process of putting together an EP of her own music, but will only release it when she is 100% happy. The show was then brought to a close with 'I Am Telling You' from Dreamgirls. Once again she took my breath away and brought the entire audience to their feet. Later this year Erivo will reprise her performance in The Color Purple on Broadway; London's loss is New York's gain.

Connie Fisher
In 2006 Connie Fisher shot to theatrical stardom when she triumphed in Andrew Lloyd Webber's first reality series How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?, winning the role in Maria in the West End revival of The Sound of the Music at the London Palladium. After a year in the role Fisher developed vocal problems and - several years and three operations later - was told she would never sing again.

In a new documentary for BBC Wales Fisher heads to LA to work with voice 'builder' Gary Catona to see if she can "sing once more". I'll Sing Once More is a remarkable documentary; Fisher was incredibly brave to agree go on such a personal and emotional journey so publicly. She's honest, strong and inspirational throughout.

Fisher builds upon and strengthens a different side to her voice, her concert at the Palladium (a separate programme which follows the documentary) is equally as unmissable with Fisher's rendition of 'As If We Never Said Goodbye' particularly making an impression. You absolutely must watch the documentary which is still available on iPlayer followed by her concert at the London Palladium, but be warned - you will shed a tear! I hope it isn't too long before we can see Fisher back on stage once again.
Finally, several weeks ago I spent a positively emerald day in Victoria attending the launch of Wicked's For Good Programme followed by the Wicked Young Writers' Award. The For Good Programme sees Wicked working closely with five charities (Cybersmile, The Anti-bullying Alliance, The Helen Bamber Foundation, Rainbow Trust and Stonewall) which relate to different themes within the show.

Wicked is a musical which speaks to a lot of people people in a very powerful way. It's brilliant to see producers recognising this and working alongside such incredible organisations who do vitally important work - I can't recall another commercial West End show ever doing anything like it.

Winners, finalists and judges of the Wicked Young Writers' Awards 2015 

After the launch I headed to the Wicked Young Writers’ Award ceremony which saw 120 shortlisted finalists taking their seats at Wicked's home of the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Hosted by leading ladies Emma Hatton and Savannah Stevenson, shortlisted work was performed by members of the Wicked company.

Encouraging young people aged five to twenty-five to use writing as a means of expressing themselves, it's wonderful to see such an inspiring event enter its fifth year. There was a brilliant speech by judge Cressida Cowell, the author of the How to Train Your Dragon series of books. Visit for more information about Wicked's For Good Programme and click here to find out more about the Wicked Young Writers' Award.

Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

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