The Best Of The West End celebrated the return of theatre with a bang earlier this week, playing to a non-socially-distanced Royal Albert Hall, featuring performances from more stars of the West End than you could shake a stick at, raising money for Acting For Others.

Hosted by West End veteran and ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ contestant, Ruthie Henshall, the night featured performances from Layton Williams, Ben Forster, John Owen-Jones Kerry Ellis, Mica Paris, Mazz Murray and many many more.

Opening the show with a musical theatre overture, the London Musical Theatre Orchestra (conducted by Stuart Morley) made the musical celebration a spectacular, sounding incredible in the iconic Royal Albert Hall. Two choirs (MX Masterclass and Mountview) added backing vocals to many of the songs, creating a wonderful sound you rarely find on stage and a twelve strong cast of ensemble performers danced their way across the stage. Huge praise must go to all mentioned above as with a show like this, they were equally instrumental in the entertainment for the evening.

Highlights of the night for me were Matt Henry singing ‘Not My Fathers Son’ from Kinky Boots, with a special appearance by Layton Williams, acting as the younger version of himself being sung to, Lauren Samuels and Sophie Evans singing a medley of Judy Garland songs, Mica Paris‘s gospel-tastic rendition of ‘A Light At The End Of The Tunnel’ from Starlight Express and a Chicago medley featuring Anna Jane Casey (who can still high-kick like no other), Gina Murray, Ben Forster and Mazz Murray, closing act one.

Act two opened with a wonderful medley of Wicked songs from Kerry Ellis and Sophie Evans and during the second half of the show, Layton Williams gave a visually spectacular rendition of ‘Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend’ from Moulin Rouge. Mazz Murray sang ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’ from Sunset Boulevard before being joined by sister Gina Murray, Kerry Ellis and Anna Jane Casey for the fantastic ‘I’m A Woman’ from Smokey Joe’s Cafe. Ending the evening was a selection of songs from Les Miserables, including ‘Valjean’s Confession’ featuring John Owen-Jones, Ben Forster, Sophie Evans and Kerry Ellis before the whole company closed the show with ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ from Hairspray.

The Best Of The West End was just that – an incredible evening of musical theatre celebration that really asks the question why the UK Government doesn’t support the Arts industry more – because with talent like this and the joy it brings to an audience is something everyone in this country could benefit from having more of in their life.

Reviewed by West End Wilma