Jason Robert Brown – Royal Festival Hall
Jason Robert Brown is a three-time Tony Award-winning composer, lyricist, conductor, arranger, orchestrator, director and performer. He is best known for his scores to several of the most renowned and award winning musicals of our generation. Brown returns to London to perform his hits after selling out his last two shows at the Garrick Theatre, he made his debut concert at Royal Festival Hall.
The star studded line up of the evening consisted of International, West End and new, undiscovered stars. Brown’s concert was divided into sections by the different shows he had chosen to perform. The Overture of Honeymoon In Vegas began the show prior to the beautiful Songs for a New World section which really engaged the audience, contrasted with the humorous writing of 13. After 13 the audience got what they were all clearly waiting for, the marvellous Parade segment, before being treated to one of Brown’s newest compositions, The Bridges of Madison County. Finishing up with possibly one of his most popular shows, The Last Five Years.
Matt Henry (as seen on The Voice and soon to be Kinky Boots) performed as part of the quartet for The River Won’t Flow in the Songs for a New World section showcasing his great understanding of harmony and vocal control to blend voices when singing in a group. Oliver Tompsett (primarily known for We Will Rock You and Wicked) took the higher harmonies of the song brilliantly and with ease. Cynthia Erivo showed the classy actress she is when singing Stars and the Moon, her use of voice for acting in this song as well as the portrayal of the characters journey was sensational.
International star, Willemijn Vekaik didn’t disappoint the audience, showcasing her ease when belting during And I Will Follow. Bertie Carvel and Laura Pitt-Pulford’s rendition of This Is Not Over Yet from Parade was so emotionally charged it had audience members in tears, their voices and acting complimented each other very well. In The Bridges of Madison County segment Sean Palmer and Caroline Sheen elegantly and maturely delivered the songs Before and After You/One Second and A Million Miles. The chemistry between the performers was delightful to watch due to the sheer conviction of acting and use of Brown’s exquisitely written melodies and lyrics. Amy Booth-Steel instantaneously engulfed the audience with the stillness and sincerity of her delivery of Still Hurting, beginning The Last Five Years fragment. Olivier Award winning actress – Eleanor Worthington-Cox, from Matilda, proved why she won the title of Best Actress when she sang What It Means To Be A Friend from 13. Brand New You (also from 13) was performed by the energetic, vibrant and talented cast of The National Youth Music Theatre group.
Standout moments from the concert were Laura Pitt-Pulford’s emotive, and heart wrenching version of You Don’t Know This Man, from Parade. The conviction and maturity of voice and acting for someone so young was gorgeous to watch, and exciting to see what her future will bring. The Last Five Years song I Can Do Better Than That, sung by Cynthia Erivo (soon to be off to Broadway reprising her role in The Colour Purple) received a prolonged standing ovation from the large majority of the audience due to its overall flawlessness. The standout song of the evening, although they are all tremendously impressive and so cleverly constructed, has to be Melinda, from a new project of Brown’s. Melinda contains the most epic piano solo mid-song, which of course Brown performed with flare and passion for music, being the only instrumental solo to receive a round of applause from the audience. I am utterly gutted to say that it was a one night only concert, as to every music and musical theatre fan who was unable to attend the show, you severely missed out.
Reviewed by Thomas Yates