Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Review: Julia Murney Live at the London Hippodrome

Julia Murney Live
London Hippodrome
Reviewed on Monday 2nd November 2015 (11pm show)

Last night Broadway actress Julia Murney made her London solo concert debut, playing two shows at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square. There aren't many people who can own a room like Julia Murney; as well as falling in love with her voice I found myself howling with laughter at her stories and quick wit. 

Murney opened with 'Raise the Roof' from The Wild Party, a show she famously originated off-Broadway. Immediately setting the tone for the evening, Murney appeared to be having an absolute ball. Straight away she built a strong rapport with the audience - she could honestly be a stand-up comedian.

At the late-night show Murney was joined by a plethora of exciting guests. She performed with U.S. pals such as the wonderful Lauren Ward and charismatic Joe Aaron Reid as well as "new London friends" including Ian Stroughair (who took to the stage as Velma Celli for a performance of 'I Know Him So Well' from Chess) and Verity Quade (who has an absolutely stunning voice, the medley she and Murney sang from Closer Than Ever was beautiful).

Fresh from playing Frankie Valli in the UK tour of Jersey Boys, Tim Driesen joined Murney to sing one of my favourite musical theatre songs 'I'd Give It All for You' from Songs For A New World; their voices blended together effortlessly. The Book of Mormon's Nic Rouleau commanded the stage when he joined Murney for their duet - their natural chemistry shined through.

I also enjoyed Murney's solo numbers. Performing musical theatre songs out of context can be tricky in a concert situation, but Murney isn't afraid to get into the moment and totally pulled each song out the bag. She dazzled with a rendition of 'Maria' from West Side Story before bringing the house down with 'Welcome to My Apartment', a song written for her by Jeff Blumenkrantz (I won't go into the story behind it because I like to think of West End Frame as a family friendly website - but you can check it out on YouTube).

Of course Murney is best known for starring as Elphaba in Wicked, a role she played on Broadway and in the musical's U.S. tour. Paying tribute to her time in the show, Murney performed 'Defying Gravity', but to throw a spanner into the words she mashed it up with 'Gravity' by Sara Bareilles. The arrangement worked a treat and is a perfect fit for Murney's voice. It was clear Murney meant serious business, she sang her absolute heart out. 

As the evening drew to a close, time stood still when Murney performed 'Rainbow Sleeves' which features on her album I'm Not Waiting. She then performed a final duet with Miss Saigon's Eva Noblezada. The pair sang Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland's famous 'Get Happy/Happy Days/Hooray For Love’ medley' during which Noblezada revealed a whole new side of her divine vocal talents whilst Murney's voice soared - it was the highlight of my evening. 

A night to remember, Murney brought the entire audience to their feet after closing the show with Kander and Ebb's 'New York, New York'.

Julia Murney's talent stands out from the crowd. Her technique is old school and her distinctive vibrato can be both fierce and delicate. It was an utter privilege to finally see Murney raise the roof and defy gravity - can't she just stay in London forever?!

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Visit Julia's website: www.juliamurney.com

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