Friday, 31 May 2013

West End Men: Theatre Review



West End Men is a concert filled with Musical Theatre classics as well as some surprises, Currently playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until the 22nd June having previously toured last year. The show features West End talent such as David Thaxton, Glenn Carter (until 8th June), Lee Mead, Matt Willis and Stephen Rahman-Hughes (from 10th June) with special guests Kerry Ellis (until 15th June) and Carley Stenson (from 17th June). I’m glad that they’ve featured some of the more modern musical theatre talent rather than the ‘Michael Ball’ type people, they’re really updating what people think about West End leading men. Admittedly, these aren't the names I’d come up with if I was putting together this concert but they are all incredibly talented and really show why they are leading men within this show. 
The set list is interesting, for example I really liked the opening number. They mashed together Pure Imagination, Being Alive, Love Changes Everything and Music of the Night; a very odd choice of songs to put together but it was a really nice, relaxed introduction to the show. Another highlight was the West Side Story medley which opened the second act, I really liked that they paid homage to this but they went for the obvious choices of musical theatre songs like things from South Pacific, Chess and Les Miserables. Don’t get me wrong, these are great but you’d think with this more modern feel to the show they’d go for contemporary musicals as well. I would have loved to have seen some surprise musical theatre numbers in there like something from Newsies or Next to Normal or something along those lines! They were far to safe with the set list. 
The performances themselves were beautiful, their voices blended together really well and it was magnificent to hear however some of the arrangements were a little ridiculous, at the end of the mash ups you had all four guys singing different songs at you and it just ended up being a lot of noise. Their rendition of Memory was like something you’d see on an audition for Britain's got Talent. Also, the addition of the rose petals falling from the roof at the end of act one really cheapened the production; this is not an X Factor final so I have no idea what the thought process was behind some of the elements of the show. 
Kate Unwin was the designer on the show, I must say I was actually really impressed with the styling of the singers. They all looked great, the set however wasn’t my favorite thing. I get what she was trying to go for, the rustic ‘behind the scenes’ look could have worked but it just looked messy. The random flaps and set pieces in the wings looked terrible and was far too distracting, although the red curtain at the back did looked divine and was very fitting. 
Mitch Sebastian directs and choreographs the production, whilst the direction was all over the place and in group numbers there was always someone blocking someone and you couldn’t find any of the lead singers in the final numbers and the choreography consisted of circles around the band and a fist pump, other than that it was fine. Matt Eagland’s lighting design looked stunning 90% of the time, with what he had to work with it was very imaginative and very precise in what he wanted. His lighting in the West Side Story Medley and Gethesemane were definitely the highlights. The 10% of the time where didn’t work was when the singers weren’t in the light, a lot of the time they’d walk out of it and not have any on them for what seemed like quite a while! 
I didn’t actually know who David Thaxton was before this but his voice is stunning! His rendition of ‘Til I Hear You Sing was one of the best moments of the night, he also brought a lot of personality to the show which was really refreshing and made it feel a lot less scripted. Glenn Carter, despite being older than the other guys, matched them all vocally and some of the notes he hit were mind blowing! His Gethenseme was incredibly executed, so effortless for him. Lee Mead has a voice that is really nice and easy to listen to, his rendition of Fix You really was beautiful, but he seemed far to focused through out. He didn’t manage to just relax and enjoy it therefore not showing as much personality as the others. 
Matt Willis was a surprise, he came out and sang Year 3000! Very random when you’re expecting a night full of musical theatre songs but it was fun, he has a great stage presence and was really having fun and enjoying his time on stage. But he really shone for me in the group numbers and stood out over the others, his voice is really remarkable! He really pulled together all the other guys in my opinion. Was nice to have something different! Kerry Ellis was the special quest and sang Out Tonight from Rent, As Long As You’re Mine and Defying Gravity from Wicked, At Last and then joined in with the final numbers. She came out at a really good point, I think if there was one more song with just the guys it would have dragged on a little. It was also really nice to see she had a great chemistry with the guys too. Beautifully sung and her At Last was stunning, really glad she had those songs within the production as it was a nice touch and a good break from the four guys we’ve just watched for an hour and a half. 
A mention also has to go to the choir who appeared in the last few numbers, stunning vocals from all and a nice addition to the production. 
This production has a lot of really cringey moments and I wish that they would have sung a few more musical theatre numbers. Its a show full of stunning vocals and mesmerising performances, It would be great on a CD but as a full on production? I’m not so sure it works, some things need to be tweaked and they should think about adding in some more theatre based numbers because that what people will be coming to see. But if you’re looking for a relaxed show full with performances from the West End’s finest Leading Men then this is the show for you. 

Rating: *** 

West End Men runs at the Vaudieville Theatre until the 22nd June 2013. 


Cast Includes: David Thaxton, Glenn Carter, Lee Mead, Matt Willis, Stephen Rahman-Hughes, Kerry Ellis and Carley Stenson.


Photo Credit: Poppy Carter

Please Note that I saw this production in Previews. 
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