THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
It all started with a t-shirt. Last May, in the midst of lockdown misery that befell us all, two theatre industry workers Chris Marcus and Damien Stanton set up the Theatre Support Fund+ to help individual workers who were suddenly out of work and not covered by the furlough.
Their idea was to produce and sell a t-shirt to raise funds and their design was a clever amalgamation of the world-famous artwork of 16 of the biggest musicals in town. It soon took off and at time of writing £900k had already been raised from the various merchandising efforts with funds supporting Acting for Others and Fleabag Support Fund which help struggling, out of work theatre workers. Being freelancers, they are of course awfully familiar with precarious employment, but in the past year even more of them have had to improvise by driving Tesco delivery vans or getting involved in care work or volunteering, to get by.
The next step, they thought, was to stage a concert to celebrate reopening and this is what we have here. Essentially a showcase, the concert, which runs for 7 performances, has proved an invaluable opportunity to sample the current crop of talent currently leading West End shows. It represents a mix of highly trained and experienced talent, who may not yet have a public profile (but who surely will), with more established names as Zizi Strallen and John Owen-Jones. The singers were backed by an orchestra, under MD Stuart Morley, and a choir of 16 Musical Theatre graduates from 2020.
To host it they secured musical theatre legends, Bonnie Langford (9 to 5 the Musical, 42nd Street etc.) and Trevor Dion Nicholas (Hamilton, Aladdin), Bonnie, ever youthful and as resplendent as ever in a selection of sequined jump suits, and Nicholas proving he’s one of the true Transatlantic theater talents. He normally plays Washington but here, he stole the King’s song from Hamilton and brought down the house with it.
With an eye on the future the producers also gave us two numbers from shows which are on the way. It looks like Olly Dobson has the makings of a perfect Marty McFly in Back to the Future: The Musical, giving us a spirited version of Huey Lewis’ ‘The Power of Love,’ and Aimie Atkinson belted out one of the big ballads from Pretty Woman: The Musical.
Crisply directed by Anna Fox and Luke Sheppard and designed by Soutra Gilmour, the concert opened with a witty new title song for the hosts from composers Stiles & Drewe, and it ended with the rousing finale of the Queen number of the same name.
There wasn’t a weak link in it as this is the cream of the crop, but Sharan Phull demonstrated how to bring both vocal mastery and emotional truth to the poignant ‘Beautiful/Spotlight’ from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Hana Stewart in ‘Heart of Stone’ from Six reminds us just what a great show that is. It was cruelly cut off literally hours before its Broadway opening but will reopen there in September and has already done so here.
All the big hitters were represented: The Lion King, Wicked, Les Misérables (John Owen-Jones making ‘Bring Him Home’ look easy), The Phantom of the Opera, The Book of Mormon, Mary Poppins... and we were treated to Carly Thomas and four spritely Matilda’s. Numbers from Phantom and Aladdin featured impressive newcomers who are taking over their lead roles.
Mazz Murray, with the easy confidence of a veteran, shows how to own an Act One closer with ‘The Winner Takes It All’ from Mamma Mia while Aisha Jawando showed us how she is more than up to taking over as the legend Tina.
From the first note of the first belter by Jordan Luke Gage (‘It’s My Life’ from & Juliet) it was so great to breathe in live music again. You’re not just plonked in front of a TV, you must respond, and then they respond back! That’s how it works. We’d almost forgotten.
Performance dates and times to come:
Thursday 3 to Sun 7 June 2021, 7.00pm; Matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2.00pm.
Sunday night’s show will be broadcast live: see www.theshowmustgoonlive.com
Theatre Support Fund+ information: www.theatresupportfund.co.uk