Friday, 4 June 2021

REVIEW: The Show Must Go On at the Palace Theatre

If there is a show that will epitomise the impact, frustrations and hope of the last 12 months in the Theatre Industry when we look back it must surely be this one, The Show must go on which finally runs until Sunday 7th June in the Palace Theatre and is available free on a Youtube channel. As we entered the glorious West End venue through the new covid protocols – E-ticket, NHS app scan and temperature check, with the paper in my pockets showing the original two booked dates of 21st January 2021 and 18th March 2021, it finally felt like the third time lucky, Live theatre was back.

Under the shadow of the awesome Harry Potter and Cursed Child set and venue dressing (a production that still has not announced its reopening date due to its scale & complexity) the brainchild of prop supervisor Chris Marcus & Stage manager Damian Stanton was finally reaching its ultimate goal of raising £1 million for the Theatre Support Trust with this concert. The simple graphical representation of 16 West End Musicals with the support of the Producers and Rightsholders which had inspired us all through the pandemic was about to become what we all dreamed of as a Live show. In many ways it did not matter how good a show it was, we were all glad to just be there but as it turned out it was a wonderful celebration of musical theatre with something for everyone in the line-up.

It also reminded us that what we love best about Musical Theatre is the rich sound of a live band (17 piece under Stuart Morley) on stage, exciting new talent making their debuts, old troopers showing them all how it is done and of course huge applause and cheers at every opportunity from a happy audience. We all have our favourite shows and within those our favourite songs so with a selection of just 20 songs (the 16 shows of the logo plus Back to The Future (opens 20th August), Pretty Woman (opens 8th July), We will rock you and a specially written song for the event) was unlikely to include everyone’s favourite track, but we applauded them all.

My personal highlights were seeing the incomparable Bonnie Langford and magnificent Trevor Dion Nicholas as hosts delivering their pun-filled cards with exuberance and joy. They sang the original number by Stiles and Drew to open the show with the immortalising lines “if there is one thing the pandemic proved it's this, we don’t mind a lengthy interval but this one takes the piss!”. Nicholas also delivered an excellent You’ll be back from Hamilton (reopens 19thAugust) which we were still humming several hours later! Other showstoppers were John Owen Jones singing Bring it home from Les Mis, Alice Fearn recreating Me and the Sky from Come from Away (reopens 22 July) and Mazz Murray closing Act 1 with the Winner takes it all from Mamma Mia! (reopens 25th August). All of them have tremendous stage presence and sell a song so well across the footlights.

Equally, it was a joy to discover the fine voices of Rhys Whitfield and Lucy St Louis with All I ask of you from Phantom (reopens 21 July) and to be reminded of the quirky fun of Book of Mormons (reopens January 2022) by Dom Simpson and Tom Xander with You and me (but mostly me). The children also added their usual charm supporting (or actually outshining) Zizi Strallen with Practically Perfect from Mary Poppins (reopens 7th August) and Carly Thomas with When I grow up from Matilda (reopens 16th September).

Olly Dobson opened Act 2 with a strong Power of Love from Back to the Future which will open in August at the Adelphi, a venue that was not originally available to it pre-pandemic and we hope will settle for a long run and army of Film franchise fans. He proved that he has what it takes to be centre stage and a name to watch out for alongside the other performers such as Jordon Luke Cage, Hana Stewart, Janique Charles, Kayi Ushe, Marcus Harman, Aimie Atkinson, Aisha Jawando, Shaun Phull, Laura Pick, Alexia Khadime and Christine Allado who all delivered songs from their shows.

It is a two-hour celebration of British and American musical theatre today, an advert for the West End to tempt us back to see the shows again when they reopen and those that will follow, and a brilliant concept to raise funds for those who work in the industry (and have decided to stick with it and not retrain). Not only that but by streaming the show they have embraced one of the positives of the last 12 months with the demonstrations of creativity and innovation which so many online productions have shown, and which must surely be a natural enhancement of this form of entertainment in the future.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Row K Stalls | Price of Ticket: £58.50

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