“Many countries, our own included are seeing a huge shift in their political landscape and fear and hate have been the leading force behind several recent campaigns. This evening will see the theatre community come together in solidarity to respond and raise its voice in solidarity.”
Aftersold-out concerts earlier this year with Jodie Jacobs and Julie Atherton, this festive concert will take place on Wednesday 14th December at 7.30pm feature the amazing talents of Madalena Alberto, Julie Atherton, Julie Jupp, Joshua LeClair, Nigel Richards and George Ure as they bring some of their favourite songs and seasonal classics to the Chapel of St Barnabas in an intimate, acoustic concert, musically directed by James
Trying to pick highlights from the rest of the show is incredibly difficult as I enjoyed all of it so much, Cassie Compton’s duetting on the hymn It Is Well With My Soul was intensely beautiful, her slight frame belies the considerable power of her voice and Melanie La Barrie’s rendition of Easy To Be Hard would have surely secured her a place in the cast of Hair had it continued to run. The mixture of gospel and musical theatre is not one that you might think would work, but as Stephans pointed out, so much of music is about story-telling and personal connections so moving from gospel number to Sweet Charity to hymns made perfect sense as we saw how much each of the numbers meant to him. The anecdotes that peppered the show were also great fun, mixing in showbiz name-dropping with truly inspirational nuggets about dealing with the reality of serious illness.
The show constantly caught fire with the upbeat numbers that involved the entire company: Brotherhood of Man featuring Tim Oxbrow sharing vocals with Stephans and Rebecca Caine providing her Jonas-baiting dulcet tones was a chirpy pleasure enhanced with a tap dancer and The Flesh Failures and Blow Gabriel Blow were also delights. Of the solo numbers, Pure Imagination was tender and beautiful and heartfelt and the closing Run Till I Finish had a huge emotional punch, but there really were no duff moments in the programme with everyone on top form and giving it their all.
The West End Gospel choir, under Lisa Thorner’s enthusiastic direction, provided great animated back-up with maybe 7 of them pulling double duty as backing singers on numbers which didn’t require the full choir and providing the odd solo riff or three. I didn’t catch many of their names but Keisha Amponsa Banson was one who did stand out for me. And the band, under Dougie Freeman’s musical direction, was simply superb throughout, with Charlie Laffer’s spellbinding guitar-playing in Friendly Pressure being a highlight for me.