Home » London Theatre Reviews » The Seth Concert Series – Alex Newell | Review

The Seth Concert Series – Alex Newell | Review

Alex Newell, like many Americans, began singing as a child in church – which, like the Church of England’s own churches, chapels and cathedrals – involved singing early on a Sunday morning, which Newell did not find ideal. “The Lord said ‘Yes’ but the Church said ‘No’,” Newell mused. A new church minister, assigned to Newell’s parish, refused to permit Newell to sing, on the back of his performances on the Fox Television musical drama series Glee, in which he played Unique Adams, a transgender high school pupil.

The Seth Concert Series - Alex Newell
The Seth Concert Series – Alex Newell

I say ‘he’, though Newell is not one of those sensitive types who takes offence at others who don’t use their preferred pronouns. Instead, he’s gone the other way, and embraced all the gender pronouns – he, she, they, something else, Newell doesn’t care. Or, rather, there are more important things going on in the world to get overly concerned about such matters. He has the ability to hit the high notes, so host Seth Rudetsky had him singing female parts from Dreamgirls, but it is, in the end, presumptuous to assume he is a trans woman. Not that it should matter, but he identifies as gay.

At a very young age, he thought that people were crying when he sang as a soloist in a church service because he was terrible, and it was only somewhat later that he came to understand that it was because they were emotionally stirred. His mother had ambitions for him to become a church pastor, but he found himself submitting an audition tape to something called The Glee Project, a reality television series in the United States that aired in 2011 and 2012. It was, in effect, a televised audition process for a role on Glee itself. Newell was a finalist, and despite not winning the competition, he appeared in Glee’s third series, he was invited back for the fourth, and then the fifth, and the sixth (and final) series.

Having been turned down by (amongst others) Carnegie Mellon University and the Juilliard School, he was offered a scholarship by the Berklee College of Music, in Boston, Massachusetts, but stuck with Glee instead. Like many, there was no meaningful feedback from the various places he was rejected by. Pressed on the matter by Rudetsky, Newell said he wasn’t interested in finding out more – if something isn’t for him, it’s not meant for him. Given his work to date in music, film and television as well as theatre, he’s done well. Not bad for someone who was told by his eighth-grade teacher that there was no point in him striving for academic excellence because he wouldn’t amount to much no matter how much effort he put in.

Even in his formative years, Newell was level-headed enough to know that better days lay ahead. Once On This Island featured twice in this wide-ranging concert – Newell having made his Broadway debut in that show. Other delights that showcased his powerhouse vocals included ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’ from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Sunset Boulevard, and a couple of numbers from Ain’t Misbehavin’, a musical revue with the songs of Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller (1904-1943). A larger than life personality shone through in every song in this engaging and entertaining concert.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Alex Newell (performing June 6) plays Mo on NBC’s new midseason drama Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Newell is best known for his powerful performance on Glee and recently made headlines for his Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning revival of Once on This Island. He performed his show-stopping number “Mama Will Provide” on Late Night with Seth Meyers, TODAY and at the 2018 Tony Awards. Newell, who is from Salem, Massachusetts, was launched into the national limelight in 2011 when he booked a guest role on Glee due to his success on the Oxygen competition series The Glee Project. Since Glee, Newell has gone on to book several projects, including three pilots, the independent feature Geography Club and a guest-starring role on Empire. He is also signed to Atlantic Records and is currently working on new music to be released in 2020/21. Newell supports the American Cancer Society and is a role model and inspiration for LGBT teens worldwide. He currently resides in New York with his beloved dog, Nugget.

Sunday, June 6th, Live at 3PM EST and Rebroadcast at 8PM EST


Scroll to Top