The thing about subtitling a show Classic Songs From The Musicals is that it all depends what one means by ‘classic’. I once attended a concert at the Royal Albert Hall featuring songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, and given Hammerstein’s passing in 1960, no song was later than that year. Here, a number from Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera were included in the repertoire. Like one of the performers, Rebecca Trehearn, I found myself at the Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year grand final earlier in the day: as I remarked to the host, Mark Petty, none of the contestants in that competition were even born on or before 9 October 1986, the press night for ‘Phantom’. It’s all relative, it’s all subjective, and there could be arguments and counter-arguments even after the proverbial cows have come home and there would still be no ultimate definition.
No invitation, then, to “come to the cabaret, old chum” (no matter, we were already there), and no place for the cynical undercurrent of ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’. Mind you, I don’t envy the decision-making process involved in a show of this nature. Carolyn Maitland kicked off proceedings with ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’, which evoked recent memories of Ariana Grande singing it at ‘One Love Manchester’, the benefit concert held on 4 June 2017 for victims and families of victims of a suicide bombing in Manchester on 22 May of that year.
The general consensus seemed to be to keep the focus on the music rather than indulge in too much banter – much of the spoken word involved the performers introducing (and then, when the time came, re-introducing) one another. I wondered, momentarily, if the format would have worked better with each singer doing their entire sets without standing and sitting almost like yo-yos – but then there were duet harmonies in rearrangements of ‘Tonight’ and ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story.
In most cases, where a musical number was rearranged, it felt like jazz, or at least it felt jazzed up – Gemma Sutton’s rendering of ‘My Favourite Things’ from The Sound of Music was particularly refreshing – while some may think such an iconic number should be left as it is, why not make an already jaunty tune yet more jauntier? Sutton’s duet with Tom Hier, ‘If I Loved You’ from Carousel, had both voices in rich and fine form. The title tune from My Funny Valentine was given a conventional, if nonetheless effective, treatment by Rebecca Trehearn.
And so the tunes kept coming. But there are musical theatre tunes, and there are special musical theatre tunes, and then there are tunes that are so well-loved they elicit an audible gasp from this (albeit receptive and unassuming) crowd. David Shannon, having already wowed the audience with ‘The Music of the Night’, closed out the show with ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Misérables. It is remarkable how touching that song is no matter how many times one hears it.
Gemma Sutton was the stand-out performance for me, singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ in a significantly lower register than the high notes of ‘Tonight’, overall demonstrating vocal versatility. Nobody, I hasten to add, disappointed. These songs are crowd pleasers for a reason – while this may be a safe and secure start to this series of concerts, the standard has been set, and it’s a high one for successor events and performers to follow. A highly enjoyable experience.
Review by Chris Omawenng
Live At Zédel introduces a season of new shows this summer, each with a different musical theme, presented by lyricist Mark Petty and with musical direction by William Sharma.
Classic Songs from the Musicals will featuring favourites from The Wizard of Oz, Evita, South Pacific, West Side Story, Phantom of the Opera, The Sound of Music and many more.
Cast includes Carolyn Maitland, David Shannon, Gemma Sutton, Tom Hier and Olivier-Award winner Rebecca Trehearn.