CHILDLINE 30th ANNIVERSARY WEST END STARS CONCERT
A Fabulous Musical Afternoon
Marti Webb with in order of appearance
Sylvia Young Theatre School, Charlotte Ford, Les Ames, Richard Bonser, Chay, OutofSync, Ashley Knight, Alex Cody, Cassius Hackforth, Radlett Musical Theatre Company Singers, Amanda West, Jae Alexander.
A wet Sunday in the West End was illuminated by the stars of this West End show produced for Childline by veteran Music Industry and Theatre producer Robert Page.
With a cast including musical theatre royalty Marti Webb no one in the Arts Theatre was thinking about the Queens street party a mile or so away such was the excitement that greeted this cast in the theatre when they performed.
It was a fast paced review of the classic musicals of the last 60 years programmed expertly by Robert Page and executed perfectly by his talented company of over 30 performers.
|Sylvia Young Theatre School Photo : Eric Duvet Photography|
After the John Wilson version of the Gypsy Overture played and the lights dimmed THE SYLVIA YOUNG THEATRE SCHOOL were the first act. In colourful outfits they showed once again why they are the leading theatre school in the country. Their tribute to Judy Garland showcased many famous songs and had a fluid arrangement and each of the singers had their moment to shine. They were all excellent. The audience responded immediately and I could see Robert Page in the circle look extremely happy and so he should have been. It was the dream start.
|LES AMES Photo : Eric Duvet Photography|
The host for the evening was former Pye Pop Star LES AMES who informed us about his short lived Top of the Pops career in the 1970s. Les has gone onto bigger and better things since including many West End staring role. He sang his heart out throughout the show giving us several songs including my favourite BUI DOI from Miss Saigon in a powerhouse and dramatic performance. He introduced all the acts with a deft line and was warm and friendly.
The first current West End star was GILLIAN FORD who had a very lovely voice and had recently starred as Maria in Sound of Music at the London Palladium. Her version of Think of Me from Phantom showed brilliant operatic technique allied to the pop styling of the number.
|OutofSync Richard Bonser & Chay Photo : Eric Duvet Photography|
Within the show Robert Page had worked with Facebook's leading Musical Theatre Group MTAS to run a singing competition which was entered by 100s of singers of all ages and voted on by 13,000 members. The quality of the winners was proven immediately with a Les Miserable set of songs. First was Richard Bonser with Stars in which he showed a rich tenor voice which surely will lead to bigger things, and Chay who may have been very young but took her opportunity in the spotlights to deliver a perfect and dramatic version of On My Own. She was then joined by the other member of the singing group OutofSync who together with Richard performed One Day More with a powerful sound which brought huge cheers from both the audience in the stalls and the full circle with guests and performers.
|Ashley Knight Photo: Eric Duvet Photography|
To finish the first act the unbelievably talented Ashley Knight sat at the piano and after a fight with the microphone stand which seemed to last a full minute delivered three songs with virtuoso piano playing allied to a wonderful vocal delivery fitting of a West End leading star. My favourite was the Sondheim song "You could drive a Person Crazy" from Company which was perfectly suited to the intimate nature of the show.
Then everyone went to the bar !
The second act opened with a totally different act. One of the dance tutors at Sylvia Young is ALEX CODD - who is also an extremely exciting choreographer. He performed a sensational dance routine which contemporary and lyrical and as a huge dance fan I found this incredible to watch in such close proximity. One of the highlights of the afternoon.
However, the solo performance of the day did not belong to the West End stars. It belonged to a young man called CASSIUS HACKFORTH Putting children in a show is always a risk on a bill of top West End talent. However, Chay had proved in the first act that the Facebook winners were some of the best young singers in the UK. Cassius has already bagged a lead role with the National Youth Music Theatre. This performance of Different from Honk was totally mesmerising and he owned the theatre. In fact it was so fantastic that Sylvia Young who was attending the show offered him a free Summer Place at her famed Summer School. A bright future is surely ahead for Cassius.
For many artists this would be an impossible act to follow but CHARLOTTE ANN STEEN is not any other artist. She is a top West End star and threw everything at Don't Rain on my Parade and Memory from Cats. The audience was in meltdown.
Could this show get any better - it was hit after hit and stunning performance after stunning performance.
|Marti Webb and Jae Alexander Photo : Eric Duvet Photography|
The answer is yes. MARTI WEBB took to the stage and gave us a reminder of what a legend sounds like on stage with her signature song "Tell me on a Sunday" Don't forget that this show cost £10 and was billed as a Charity show. The quality on offer put many high price shows in the capital and outside to shame. This was theatre at its best - a World class offering. Marti was completely fabulous.
The reason for the show was Childline and Robert Page made an introduction and read out a letter from Esther Ranzen and then thanked everyone who had helped him create the show and then onto the finale which he had directed.
An emotional Robert then paid tribute to a close friend and colleague the musical theatre actress Nina Caie who had passed away in 2015 but had not been listed at the Olivier Awards 2016 - something that perhaps they can put right next year? She had starred in the West End production of A Chorus Line amongst many shows and had been a tutor at Sylvia Young Theatre School. Visibly moved Robert dedicated the finale and show to her memory.
The finale was one of my favourite musical theatre songs What I did For Love from A Chorus Line one of my favourite musicals. From side stage with his baton Robert brought on 4 talented award winning singers from RADLETT MUSICAL THEATRE COMPANY SINGERS | Caroline Fitch, Jemma Puri, Katie Louise Clemence and Anna Eccleston. They may not be West End stars but they shone just as brightly in this song which was delivered perfectly and when the whole company joined them for the final choruses it was a glorious sound in such a small theatre. The audience rose to their feet, and were rewarded with an encore number and singalong of You'll Never Walk Alone.
|Robert Page (Left) and the Company with What I Did For Lover Photo: Eric Duvet Photography|
The finale and much of the show was accompanied by experienced Musical Director Amanda West and her contribution to this excellence should not be underestimated. I have attended many Charity Shows in the West End. What made this one so special is that everyone delivered their best, cajoled by Amanda into top class performances. It made a change to see a cohesive Charity show where every performance was a winner. She should be congratulated on pulling this off and battling a sound system which had broken down just minutes before the show.
Robert Page pulled off a Fabulous Afternoon and in case you missed it I am told like all top West End shows there is a DVD of the show and CD available to raise more money for the Childline Charity, This show will live on in the memory for a long time but just in case I am also going to get a copy !
Everything about this show was fabulous!
London Live Review
PHOTOGRAPHS : ERIC DUVET PHOTOGRAPHY Thank you to Eric for allowing us to use these photographs which come from the OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH CD SET which is on sale from the end of the week in aid of Childline. All enquiries to Eric at his Facebook page or Twitter page.