Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Review: West End Fest at St Paul's Church

West End Fest
St Paul's Church
Reviewed on Sunday 15th May 2016

Founded by Sabrina Aloueche and Parnell Page, West End Fest has become firmly established as a must-see concert series for theatre lovers. The event sees musical theatre actors, who have starred and appeared in many of the West End's biggest shows, come together on their night off from their gruelling schedule to raise money for some incredible charities.

The latest West End Fest saw performers paying tribute to their icons; it made a nice change to see West End talent taking on songs which mostly aren't associated with musical theatre - there were performances paying tribute to everyone from Mariah Carey and Beyoncé to Stevie Wonder... and even Disney.

Whilst there was plenty of fun to be had, throughout the evening presenters Dean McCullough and Kieran Brown reminded those in attendance where their money was going. For the first time ever, West End Fest was raising money and awareness for the Make A Difference Trust. All proceeds from the event are going towards funding HIV and AIDS projects that raise awareness and provide care, support and education in the United Kingdom and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The divine Emma Kingston kicked things off, impressing with her exceptional vocal talents with a rendition of 'Saving All My Love For You'. It was a total joy to see Lauren Varnham back onstage channelling her inner Mariah whilst time stood still when Rebecca Trehearn paid tribute to Eva Cassidy with an entrancing performance of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. My heart was melted by Scott Morgan's choir who closed the first act.

If there's one person in musical theatre who knows how to put on a show, it's the sensationally talented Kieran Brown who unleashed Madonna madness onto the audience (complete with a cape!). Claudia Kariuki - who quite frankly should be a global megastar - aced Beyoncé's '1+1' whilst Liam Doyle showed off some seriously smooth vocals with his tribute to Stevie Wonder.

Stand outs also included Ambra Caserotti, Peach Coyne (who needs to unite with Michael Vinson to perform some sort of Disney concert), the multi-talented Matthew Wycliffe and Andy Coxon who gave us a number from new musical Muted with striking choreography by Jamie Neale. As the evening drew to a close, Mitch Miller stepped forward and stole the show with his rendition of Céline Dion's 'All By Myself'. I have never seen a guy own a diva song so spectacularly! His voice soared, showing off a never ending range. 

To make up for the lack of staginess, West End Fest was closed with a superb Hamilton medley (put together by Scott Morgan who did a stellar job as musical director all evening) led by In The Heights star Sam Mackay. With recent news that Lin-Manuel Miranda will be unable to open his show in London, Mackay is the West End favourite to play the title role when Hamilton opens at the Victoria Palace next year. Mackay lived up to his own hype - I saw the show on Broadway earlier this year and can imagine Mackay playing the part triumphantly. 

Killer performances, lots of laughs and bucket loads of money raised for charity - what more could anyone want from a Sunday evening?

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

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