Home » London Theatre Reviews » The Seth Concert Series – Keala Settle | Review

The Seth Concert Series – Keala Settle | Review

Keala Settle
Keala Settle

Keala Settle has done several touring productions as well as Broadway shows, but it is as Lettie Lutz in the motion picture The Greatest Showman that she is probably best known. ‘This Is Me’ has become a catchy anthem for many people, and it’s still a surprise to Settle that it has impacted people in very positive ways. She’s still trying to process what it does mean for herself, and has reached the point where she feels she too can benefit from the song’s message of acceptance.

The song itself doesn’t, interestingly, feature in this concert (you’d have thought they could have squeezed it in somehow) – except for a brief extract from the winning entry of an online competition, from Sara Gordon. (I have no idea what the winner’s prize is, save for the pride of winning and the exposure of their singing to a paying online audience.) On more than one occasion, Settle referenced a visit to London, in which she saw a production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Company on Shaftesbury Avenue, noted for switching genders of characters, such that Bobbie, usually a man, was played by Rosalie Craig. Settle was evidently moved by Craig’s performance, and so ‘Being Alive’ from that show ended up in the line-up for this gig.

Of the various shows in The Seth Concert Series I’ve come across, this was by far the most diverse, drawing from motion pictures, Gospel music and other genres as well as musical theatre. There were, therefore, opportunities to enjoy songs one wouldn’t normally hear in a musical theatre concert, such as ‘Don’t Cry For Me’, made famous by CeCe Winans, and ‘Candle on the Water’, recorded by Helen Reddy for a 1977 Disney animated film called Pete’s Dragon.

Originating the role of Norma Valverde in Hands on a Hardbody, which had a relatively brief run on Broadway in 2013, Settle gained a Tony Award nomination for a show that had already closed by the time the ceremony took place. She had, of course, become used to the rigours of the acting profession, with its near-constant treadmill of auditions, callbacks and not getting desired roles, but early on in the concert, she expressed regret at not being able to come together with friends and family in the usual way because of the ongoing global pandemic, particularly with regards to mourning those who have passed on, whatever the cause of death.

A couple of song choices were very pleasant surprises, such as ‘Poor Wandering One’ from Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1879 comedy opera The Pirates of Penzance, the 1983 movie being a key influence for Settle in her formative years, together with Grease, which we also heard a song from. I could only agree with Settle’s assessment of movie musicals as being too perfect, in the sense that one never experiences or sees any mistakes or mishaps that would happen in live performances.

Rather than having a long list of ‘dream roles’, Settle’s ‘dream’ is merely to “get to the next moment”, and her approach to taking each day as it comes is admirable, especially in these troubled times. A deeply personal and poignant concert, one would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this pitch-perfect and heartfelt performance.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Keala Settle received world-wide attention for portraying Lettie Lutz, a bearded lady, in 2017’s musical film The Greatest Showman, alongside stars Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, and Zendaya. The song “This Is Me” from the film, principally sung by Settle, won the 2018 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Keala originated the role of Norma Valverde in Hands on a Hardbody, which ran on Broadway in 2013, and was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, and Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She was also awarded the Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway debut performance during the 2012-13 theatrical season. She has also been featured on Broadway as Madame Thenardier in the 2014 revival of Les Misérables, and originated the role of Becky in the 2016 musical Waitress, after premiering with the original cast at the American Repertory Theater in 2015. She made her Broadway debut in 2011’s Priscilla, Queen of the Desert as Shirley and in the ensemble. Keala performed in the 2013 Encores! concert staging of Violet with Sutton Foster, but did not move on to the Broadway revival due to taking the role Madame Thénardier in the revival of Les Misérables.

Keala was born in Hawaii, and is a graduate of Kahuku High School, and an alumna of Southern Utah University. She began her singing career as a studio vocalist and one-time backup singer for Gladys Knight in Las Vegas. The same week as The Greatest Showman film’s U.S. release in December 2017, Settle released her debut EP as Keala, titled “Chapter One,” a set of contemporary R&B-infused covers which landed on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart. The follow-up, Chapter Two, arrived shortly thereafter in March 2018. NBC used “This Is Me” as an anthem for their 2018 Winter Olympics coverage.

LISTING:

Mark Cortale Presents
THE SETH CONCERT SERIES

KEALA SETTLE with SETH RUDETSKY
Sunday, October 18th at 8PM EST
Monday, October 19th at 3PM EST

LACHANZE with SETH RUDETSKY
Sunday, October 25th at 8PM EST
Monday, October 26th at 3PM EST
All tickets available at www.thesethconcertseries.com

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