Sequins, spandex and full military regalia were in out in abundance for the third annual ‘West End Heroes’ concert at the Dominion Theatre, a charity concert in aid of ‘Help for Heroes’, a charity which provides much needed support for those suffering due to their service.
Hosted with aplomb by the effervescent Christopher Biggins, who ‘flew’ in in a bubble, bedecked in the most glorious sequinned jacket (I want it!), Biggins was a smooth, assured and amusing host for the evenings events.
It was a rousing start, with the opening of Fanfare and The National Anthem performed by The Central Band of The Royal Air Force and throughout we were given just the right amount of military display work from other military units which delighted the assembled audience.
The ‘Elf Medley’ was next in which we got a sneak peek of this Sparkly Christmas show which opens in the same space at the end of this month. I wasn’t blown away, but it’s hard to judge a show on the performance of only a couple of numbers on a stage when the majority of it is taken up by a full band from the a Royal Air Force. Other excepts from current West End shows included Coloured Woman from ‘Memphis’ performed brilliantly by Rachel John and ‘The Music of the Night’ a rather haunting performance by the current Phantom of the Opera John Owen-Jones.
Seasoned West End Performers Mazz Murray and Jessica Martin absolutely sparkled in their respective solo numbers, Martin in her hilarious rendition of I Love A Film Cliche (‘A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine’), and Murray in a simply glorious ‘swingtastic’ version of Abba’s Waterloo. Stuart Morley has done an excellent of job arranging these and the majority if the evenings songs.
Adding to the West End pedigree was The West End Heroes Dancers who with Barnaby Thompson, performed Tap Your Troubles Away from the currently touring ‘Mack & Mabel’, expertly choreographed by Matt Flint. El Ocho, a group of male singers drawn from the West End sang Queens ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, it was lovely, but I felt an odd choice for that particular evenings programme.
There was a wonderfully affecting performance by Maurillia Simpson (with Kate Leiper) who sang His Eye Is On The Sparrow from ‘The Two Worlds of Charlie F’, a play about and theatre company comprised of, soldiers wounded in theatre of war. This played two sold out nights in the Theatre Royal Haymarket last year and went on to tour the UK. To my regret, I’d never heard of it, but the song, coupled with some informative VT makes me hope that it is performed again soon, it was truly compelling.
The Royal Air Force Bluebells sang two numbers during the evening and while able singers seemed less than comfortable when ‘filling’ during the instrumental sections.
We were also treated two solo numbers from current members of The National Youth Theatre, Abigail Rose’s emotional Nightporter from their 2013 production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and Charlotte Jaconelli’s soaring Soprano on Webber’s Love Never Dies. Squadron Leader Matthew Little, an assured performer, lent his vocals to ‘Til I hear you sing, also from ‘Love Never Dies’. There was also a slightly odd, yet delighting turn from X Factor Magician Jamie Raven.
The two choirs adding support to the evening proceedings were The West End Heroes Choir, comprising of singers who work in a non theatrical role within the West end Theatre industry as well as The Colchester Military Wives Choir, made up of serving soldiers mothers of soldiers and, of course, military wives.
The finale was an appropriate and uplifting version of Do You Hear The People Sing from ‘Les Miserables’ led by the delicious vocals of Bradley Jaden with the full company.
Whilst the evening was a little rough around the edges and the non West End Performers were less polished than their professional counterparts, there is no denying that the evening is for a fantastic cause and the audience went home happy, uplifted and thoroughly entertained.
Reviewed by Byron Butler
Photo: Claire Bilyard