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Musicals by Candlelight at The Actors’ Church, London

The first two musical numbers are indicative in themselves as to how wide-ranging the selection of showtunes is in Musicals by Candlelight, showing the remarkable versatility of ‘Icon Strings’, a string quartet with tastes eclectic enough to open their concert with ‘El Tango de Roxanne’ from Moulin Rouge! The Musical and then ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Misérables. But do they do rock musicals? Well, that depends on whether you consider Rent to be a rock musical – I personally do, even if ‘Seasons of Love’ is admittedly one of the softer numbers.

Musicals By Candlelight - Credit Mayumi Hirata.
Musicals By Candlelight – Credit Mayumi Hirata.

There isn’t anything in the programme that most regular patrons of musical theatre wouldn’t recognise, with most of the songs also featuring in motion pictures of the same name. There are, essentially, two broad audience categories to be satisfied (well, three, if we’re counting those who are stoically sitting through the show having been brought along by friends or colleagues or family). The first are those who know plenty of showtunes from plenty of musicals. The second are those who don’t, which does not, for the avoidance of doubt, make them any less worthy than those who do.

The concert satisfies both camps by providing concise introductions to the songs, which serve as reminders for musical regulars, and useful insights for those who, for whatever reason, still haven’t popped along to see, for instance, Hamilton. The musicians looked intently at their sheet music, and – as there was nothing and nobody else to look at on stage – it wasn’t difficult to note quite how much they were all concentrating throughout. The intensity of their performances was curious to observe because the resulting sounds produced were paradoxically soothing and relaxing.

I’ve no idea whether there are any plans to produce and release an album. It’s the kind of project that is far easier said than done, of course, but I’d happily add it to my collection of recorded music. They don’t just go for the likes of ‘All I Ask of You’ from The Phantom of the Opera – hearing the title track from Pretty Woman the Musical performed by a string quartet, for instance, is a unique experience.

It truly lives up to its name, with candlelight flooding the stage. The stripped-back experience may not be for everyone, but it’s a good opportunity to see and hear showtunes performed, without vocal accompaniment, allowing the music to shine. There isn’t anything that quite compares to this concert, so they have, if anything, found their unique selling point. At an hour long (they squeeze in two concerts per evening) it’s brief, but breathtaking.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Musicals by Candlelight returns to London after a sell-out series of concerts, with brand-new music for 2023. Sit back, relax, and experience some of the greatest musical theatre songs of all time performed by a world-class string quartet at London’s historic Actors’ Church.

Each concert by candlelight sees a string quartet perform popular songs from musical theatre composers: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, with a unique (surprise) set list of songs for each concert.

Hear songs from some of your favourite musicals such as Les Misérables, Wicked, Chicago and MAMMA MIA! as you’ve never heard them before!

The Icon Strings Quartet group plays at all Musicals by Candlelight concerts. The group is comprised of award-winning musicians who regularly perform internationally, as well as at prestigious venues and events such as the BBC Proms, Glyndebourne Opera and the Royal Opera House.

There are six different types of Musicals by Candlelight seating: VIP, premium, standard, rear, onstage, and restricted view. Seats are unallocated within the section you book, so we recommend arriving with plenty of time to ensure your party is able to sit together.

Enjoy an enchanted evening of theatre like no other.

The Actors’ Church, London
13 Apr 2023 – 10 Jun 2023

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