You could’nt beat the spectacular setting and atmosphere for the inaugural WEST END PROMS event, as a part of the annual Greenwich Music Time festival. Playing host to music industry greats over the years, from Tom Jones to the Jacksons and Alexander O’Neal – this year’s lineup included Cliff Richard and Paul Weller.
With the historical buildings of the old Royal Naval College either side, sweeping views of the Queen’s House and Greenwich Park’s Royal Observatory behind us and the pink sunset sky over the thames as a backdrop to the stage area, the audience were buoyant and upbeat as they took to their seats (though a somewhat confusing seating system meant a few queues) for what promised to be an evening of outstanding vocal talent, showcasing highlights of seven decades of musical theatre.
The line up was certainly impressive; our host Jamie Lambert of Collabro fame was genial and charismatic and kept the evening flowing nicely. We had an ensemble choir from up and coming local drama college Trinity Laban, and our headliners were all legends with many screaming fans in the audience drawn from the very best of our West End shows. John Owen-Jones (Les Mis/Phantom), Rachel John (Hamilton/ The Bodyguard), Marisha Wallace (Waitress/Dreamgirls), Ben Forster (Superstar/Phantom), Jamie Muscato (Heathers/Les Mis), Jodie Steele (Heathers/Wicked), Jon Robyns (Hamilton/Miss Saigon), Lauren Samuels (We Will Rock You/Bend it like Beckham) and Corrie’s Daniel Brocklebank (ITV All Star Musicals).
There were many highlights for me, I loved the duet “In His Eyes” from Jekyll and Hyde performed by Jodie and Lauren; it was thrilling to see John Owen-Jones and Ben Forster perform the songs from the iconic roles they are feted for, “Bring Him Home” and “Gethsemane” respectively and Marisha and Rachel singing “Listen” from Dreamgirls absolutely brought the house down towards the end of Act 1.
However, the evening was not without fault. There were various technical difficulties throughout, resulting in some of the ensemble not being miced while others were, causing an inbalance of sound. The screens on either side of the stage that showed us close ups of the performers had technical glitches and went fuzzy and disappeared at one point. The performers themselves though true pros that made it work against the odds were clearly deeply under rehearsed with the orchestra as often they did not know when to come in or when the orchestra would finish a song (as a fellow performer I winced with embarrassment as poor Ben who gave a fantastic performance of Gethsemane went to finish his final phrase and the orchestra just stopped so they clearly had not rehearsed the ending well enough and the big screens unfortunately made it clear that the song stopping mid phrase was as big a surprise to him as it was to me).
Similarly, Daniel Brocklebank, a lovely performer with a great voice, missed his first phrase of “ I’d rather be Sailing” and looked surprised and rushed and had to come in halfway through the first sentence. Jon Robyns whom I know to be a consummate professional got completely flummoxed when the bells of St Alfege church nearby chimed 10 o’clock and Rachel John had to good naturedly adlib some riffs to fill time while he got back on track with the orchestra.I don’t think this would have happened in a million years if he had felt more secure with the song, which comes from more rehearsal. I am also afraid to say that the student girls from Trinity Laban made a complete pigs ear of a strange two part ensemble version “Movie in my mind” from Miss Saigon – the close ups on their faces showed they didn’t have a clue who was singing what or when to come in and unfortunately some of the close ups revealed some girls singing wrong lyrics, or not singing at all! Infact the prescence of cameras giving us these close ups throughout was quite unfortunate as you could see the exchanges of panicked or surprised looks amongst the entire cast as they tried to keep up with the orchestra, the Musical Director seeming to barely listen to or acknowledge whether performers were ready or not and even the finale of “Do You Hear the People Sing” was a mess with one of the leads audibly laughing at how they didn’t really know what the orchestra was up to.
At £45 a ticket for top seats I would personally expect more. Not to say that the cast weren’t phenomenally talented and in good voice; just that they were under rehearsed with the orchestra and it felt very much like watching a dress rehearsal, where under normal circumstances they would say “stop lets try that again” (and actually did on one occasion).
In summary, a wonderful setting, wonderful performers but more rehearsal next year please.
Reviewed by Nicole Faraday
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