Stars celebrate the return of West End musicals!
“We are going to take the roof off the Palace Theatre”
Shanay Holmes and her husband Christopher Steward are producing the West End Musical shows. West End Musical Brunch and West End Musical Drive In were hit by the pandemic limits on social contact but here at London’s Palace Theatre is their celebration of West End musical theatre.
Shanay introduces three men and two more women headlining stars who will sing and she will open the show with the infectious song from Hairspray, “You Can’t Stop the Beat”.
Ben Forster star of Thriller, Elf and Phantom of the Opera who was the winner of the BBC Superstar talent show to play Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, thrills with his range in the Lloyd Webber classic, “Music of the Night”.
Sophie Evans, most recently, Glinda in Wicked, sings the classic number in the show, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and continuing the same wizardly theme, in the theatre where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is due back, Rachel John, Angelica in Hamilton will sing “Home” from The Wiz. Alice Fearn, an acclaimed take-over of Elphaba in Wicked and star of Come From Away sings a pertinent number in times of the pandemic. “They Just Keep Moving the Line” spoke to many of us in the audience and beyond who are hoping that theatres may be able to fully re-open on 21st June. Her stage presence is absorbing.
Trevor Dion Nicholas who came to London to play the Genie in Aladdin has great stage presence and with Sophie he sings “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors. I didn’t quite get Trevor’s formal jacket and pedal pusher length turn up, tight trousers but hey, it must be fashion!
Everyone’s favourite is the first black Billy Elliot, and take over lead in Everybody’s Talking about Jamie, which has just clocked up its 1000th performance. Layton Williams charms with “Sex is in the Heel” from Kinky Boots with a fabulous dance number showing off his high energy, suggestive physical talent.
Another song which is evocative of lockdown and separation is “Waving Through A Window” from Dear Evan Hansen with all the emotion in Ben Forster’s lovely voice.
Alice Fearn recreates her famous song from Wicked, the iconic “Defying Gravity” to show stopping applause.
Shanay and Rachel together sing one of the most gorgeous songs in this show, Stephen Schwartz’s “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt which returns to the Dominion very soon. This song is very special.
Closing the first act, the inimitable Layton reinterprets Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” in a truly show stopping, all round song and dance dramatic performance.
After the interval, Shanay encourages the audience to join in, to sing, to dance, to celebrate being back in a live theatre. She and her husband are the first black producers in the West End and have colour blind casting at the top of their agenda. This show demonstrates the exceptional talent available to London producers.
A five piece band is onstage and there are ensemble dancers and three back up vocalists. I loved the lighting shifts for added mood.
In Act Two, Trevor loses the pedal pushers and sings “Ease on Down the Road” from The Wiz. So many of these lyrics seem to resonate with lockdown concerns. Very popular is Trevor’s song the jaunty “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin.
From one of the oldest musicals on the night, Funny Girl, Rachel John will belt out “Don’t Rain On My Parade”, to the newest, Frozen, the one that has not yet arrived in London from Broadway, Alice Fearn sings “Let It Go/Into the Unknown”.
Shanay sings two songs from the exciting Dreamgirls, touring the UK from the end of the year, “Listen” and the dynamic disco version of “One Night Only”.
Ben closes with the upbeat “Superstar” and Sophie with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” has beautiful lyrics. Layton produces another scene stealer in “Don’t Even Know It” from Jamie with extravagant dance moves and costume and backed by the schoolgirl ensemble from the touring version of Jamie.
Rachel will sing the penultimate number, Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” which has the audience dancing. Finally the whole cast will sing the anthem “From Now On” from The Greatest Showman with its heartfelt chorus of “We Will Come Back Home!” Layton will get to wear a lavish ball gown and the whole cast will be dressed in sparkly red.
Long live London’s musical theatre!
You Can’t Stop The Beat
(Hairspray) – Shanay
Music Of The Night
(Phantom) – Ben
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
(The Wizard of Oz) – Sophie
Home (The Wiz) – Rachel
They Just Keep Moving The Line
(Smash) – Alice
(Little Shop of Horrors)
– Trevor & Sophie
Sex Is In The Heel
(Kinky Boots) – Layton
Waving Through A Window
(Dear Evan Hansen) – Ben
(Wicked) – Alice
When You Believe
(Prince of Egypt)
– Shanay & Rachel
(Lady Gaga) – Layton
Ease On Down The Road
(The Wiz)- Trevor
(Dreamgirls) – Shanay
Don’t Rain On My Parade
(Funny Girl) – Rachel
Let It Go / Into The Unkown
(Frozen) – Alice
Friend Like Me
(Aladdin) – Trevor
(Jesus Christ Superstar) – Ben
Don’t Even Know It
(Everybody’s Talking About Jamie)
Dont Stop Believing
(Journey) – Sophie
I Wanna Dance With Somebody
(Whitney Houston) – Rachel
One Night Only (Dreamgirls) – Shanay
Encore: From Now On
(The Greatest Showman) – All
West End Musical Celebration
Live at the Palace Theatre
Produced by Shanay Holmes and Christopher Steward
Trevor Dion Nicholas
Laura May Buckley
John G Smith
Musical Director: Chris Hatt
Choreographer: Ben Davies
Lighting Designer: Howard Hudson
Sound Designer: Adam Fisher
Costume Designer: Faye Young
Running Time: Two hours and 10 minutes with an interval
Booking 10th to 13th June 2021
109 Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 5AY
Tube : Leicester Square
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at the
on 10th June 2021