My daughter’s favourite musical is Les Miserables. She loved the West End production when I took her to see it for a birthday treat, as well as the recent film adaption; if she’s not watching the film then she’s playing the one of the various cast recordings of the show. What sparked the original fascination with the long-lasting musical though was the 25th anniversary concert at the O2 Arena. Her growing interest in the world of musical theatre led me to sit down with her one day to watch the DVD and it was the start of a beautiful love affair for her. She adored it, and still does. I’ve taken her to see a great many other musicals since then and none have managed to knock Les Miserables from the No. 1 spot.
Les Miserables’ 25th anniversary celebrations prove that a concert rendition of a musical can be just as wonderful as seeing the full stage production in a West End theatre – so long as you don’t cast a Jonas brother in a role. The Les Mis concert was staged on a massive scale of course, hosted at the O2 Arena and featuring an ensemble of three hundred musicians and performers, as well as special after-show performances from well-known former ‘Valjean’s’ and the appearance of the original 1985 cast. Big doesn’t always mean better though, and nothing gets lost in the far more intimate events that sometimes take place.
It was recently announced that a special concert version of the award winning musical A Little Night Music is set to take place at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre for a one-night-only performance on Sunday 16th June 2013. Inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film, Smiles of A Summer Night, it premiered on Broadway in 1973 in a production which was produced and directed by Hal Prince. Featuring a book by Hugh Wheeler and music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, A Little Night Music follows the romantic lives of several characters over the course of a weekend in the country. It first appeared in the West End in 1975, coming to the Adelphi Theatre with a cast that include Jean Simmons, Liz Robertson, Joss Ackland and Diane Langton. There have been numerous revivals of the musical since then, with productions running at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Garrick Theatre, National Theatre and Piccadilly Theatre between 1989 and 2009.
The upcoming concert performance of this critically-acclaimed musical, which won six Tony Awards (including Best Musical), is set to feature a selection of top West End stars in the cast. Playing the principal roles are David Birrell as Frederik Egerman (Ragtime, Spamalot), Janie Dee as Desiree Armfeldt (Carousel, Noises Off), Fra Fee as Henrik Egerman (Les Miserables), Hadley Fraser as Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Les Miserables, The Pirate Queen), Anna O’Byrne as Anne Egerman (The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies), Joanna Riding as Countess Charlotte Malcolm (Carousel, My Fair Lady) and Laura Pitt-Pulford as Petra (Mack and Mabel, Sunset Boulevard). Included in the cast are Kimberly Blake as Mrs Nordstrom (Sweeney Todd), Scott Garnham as Mr Lindquist (Les Miserables), Nadim Naaman as Mr Erlanson (The Phantom of the Opera) Laura Sillett as Mrs Segstrom and Lisa-Anne Wood as Mrs Anderson (Les Miserables). Fans of Sondheim’s ‘amusing and sophisticated’ work can enjoy seeing it brought to life again by this incredible line-up of talent, performing such songs as ‘A Weekend In The Country’, ‘Every Day A Little Death’ and the musical’s most well-known number, ‘Send In The Clowns’, accompanied by a live 25-piece orchestra.
Other concert performances of musical theatre works have been great successes in the past. Last year, a gala concert of Stephen Schwartz and John Caird’s Children of Eden was held at the Prince of Wales Theatre and won rave reviews, starring Anton Stephans as God and Oliver Thornton and Louise Dearman as Adam and Eve, alongside Chloe Hart, Brenda Edwards, Lauren Samuels, Gareth Gates, John Wilding and Russell Grant, with Kerry Ellis also appearing as a special guest vocalist. The 2012 concert performance of rock opera Tommy, first performed by The Who in 1969, was also a well-received event, staged at the Prince Edward Theatre and starring Joe McElderry as Tommy. The rest of the cast included Daniel Boys, Hannah Jane Fox, David Hunter, Glenn Carter and Zoe Birkett.
Musical theatre can be enjoyed in a variety of forms, and a concert performance is just as enjoyable as any other. Sometimes less is more, and I’m sure those who are attending the concert of A Little Night Music will agree. It was the concert performance of Les Miserables that turned my daughter into a ‘Mizzer’ for life, and hopefully, these scaled-down concert versions of great works will continue to attract new followers to musicals they may not have known of, as well as obliging their existing fan base.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Friday 26th April 2013