West End Heroes

West End Heroes Host Michael Ball Phoro Claire BilyardArriving at the Dominion Theatre amongst the vast hoards of people, I realise this is going to be an evening to remember and it wasn’t until I got the programme that I then realised there were a lot of guest star performers!

The evening began with a glorious Fanfare from The Band of the Queen’s Division. Within these six instruments playing a short fanfare, you are reminded that nothing will ever compare to live music. Hearing the ring of the brass throughout the theatre sent shivers down my spine, the tone they created when in harmony was simply divine. This swimmingly ran into a Military Medley which incorporated the National Anthem – for which everyone rose – and humorous choreography involving lots of arms and the use of canon. This was all well explained by our charismatic host of the evening Michael Ball, who managed to cover up the minor mishaps evidentially showing the lack of rehearsal, however he’s such a charmer that the crowd loved him.

Opening the show and rightly so, is the theatre’s current show Evita with Buenos Aires performed by Michelle Pentecost. Pentecost is clearly a good performer as she opened the show with a bang, performing and singing well during the extremely quick dance break which included a questionably contemporary soft shuffle tap section? Her vocals were good through the majority of the song as she is belting, however when not belting there was a noticeable difference in her vocal strengths. Next was We’ll Gather Lilacs In The Spring, performed by the West End Heroes Choir. They are surprisingly good to say they are all not part of the performers at the theatres that they work at. But the show had opened with such a fast paced and energetic song this song felt like someone had slammed on the breaks. The song was incredibly slow moving and somewhat dull in quality, contrasting Evita drastically inducing some of the older audiences members into a bit of a stupor. Following that was Back to Before from Ragtime performed by the evenings first star guest, Louise Dearman, delivering a captivating rendition with emotion filled vocals and utter control of the stage, a true musical theatre performer.

Furthermore we had Wendi Peters delivering a very tongue and cheek performance of Let Me Sing from White Christmas. Peters is a performer through and through thriving from audience reaction who may have been lost in the White Christmas world but I was left asking whether such an over the top interpretation was required to make up for relatively average vocals. We were then meant to be treated to the title song from White Christmas sung by Aled Jones, however he was unable to make the concert, so Flight Lieutenant Matthew Little stepped in to sing it and sung it with such ease and wistfulness it created such a comforting feel in the auditorium after some disappointed ‘oohs’ and ‘awws’ from audience when hearing Aled Jones was absent. Succeeding Little were the Britain’s Got Talent winners, Collabro, a group of young boys who are all interested in musical theatre. Their version of Bring Him Home from Les Misérables was vocally en pointe, the arrangement and their harmonies were so cleverly calculated to create their own distinctive stamp on the song, the only thing letting the boys down slightly was their microphone control.

Following on from the boys Marti Pellow takes the stage with I Won’t Send Roses from Mack and Mabel ensuing lots of whispered singing from the older generations in the audience. Pellow’s performance was somewhat self indulgent and reminiscent of an old swing jazz bar delivery style. Another star guest, Louise Plowright was next teasing us with a song from a musical arriving next year, Some Things You Just Know from the upcoming show Sleepless in Seattle. Plowright delivered a sound performance stylistically however some of her vocal choices were questionable. Next was the big ensemble number of the show, well combination of numbers really. This trio of songs started with Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better, portrayed competitively accurately by Tiffany Graves and Matthew Little, showing a good rapport the performers have additionally to Graves’ soaring soprano register. Attached to that was Slap That Bass from Shall We Dance which was the first time we saw the West End Heroes Dancers executing exquisite tap. Vocalist and west end man Oliver Tompsett sang for this and the third and final song, It Don’t Mean A Thing. Although a very good vocalist Tompsett was marginally too modern for this type of singing. Concluding the first Act with Anthem from Chess was Michael Ball. This was a good choice of song for its position in the running order as it’s such an epic of the musical theatre world – and everyone loves a good power ballad!

The layout of the running order continued proving it’s excellence by having a Mary Poppins Medley as the Entre’act to Act two. The music is so terribly British and jolly it pulled the audience in straight away, including some singing along. Swiftly after was Step In Time also from Mary Poppins where the West End Dancers came back and had a good old ‘knees up’ tapping away to this infamous song. They even had someone harnessed and walking around the proscenium arch of the theatre to actually be upside down for the corresponding lyrics. Shortly after that Matthew Little returned to show us his heart felt rendition of If I Can’t Love Her from the Disney classic Beauty and the Best. Little has got a gorgeously rich Baritone voice making the lower notes of the song have strong resonance and beautiful tone but when climbing higher and higher within his range you could see him getting rather uncomfortable with the notes he was required to hit.

Up next was a small section of two Let It Be Songs, Yesterday and A Hard Day’s Night. Yesterday, sung by James Fox, and I chose the word sung very specifically as he did not perform throughout the song, there was no emotion to be seen. His emotionally dead singing was then saved by WOMAN the band singing A Hard Day’s Night, the sexy trio of ladies won the audience over by their camp rendition of the song. Up next were two songs from the show Songs for Victory. First was Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, a classy performance from the five woman delivering this very vintage style of music, all performers were engaging and had the style engrained well. Secondly I’ll Be Seeing You was sung by a larger company of people. This song utilised to convey the sadness of saying goodbye to husbands leaving for war was beautifully written, gorgeously sung and was simply empowering to watch.

More empowering songs were to come, Bui Doi was next and there is just something incredible about a group of men singing A cappella (no music) in harmony. The voices from the cast of Miss Saigon are simply astounding, they sung with such well executed precision, control and dynamics you couldn’t not be in awe of them. The song itself is very inspirational and with the addition of such talented voices the message of the song hits you with such force. Straight from the stage of the Queens Theatre was Carrie Hope Fletcher to sing her nightly song of On My Own from the longest running show in the West End, Les Misérables, which was an immaculate delivery. We then had a change of style having the pop song Home by Michael Bublé. Performing this was Daniel Boys and Lauren Samuels primarily known for their appearances on the BBC TV talent searches. They both sang the song beautifully, demonstrating good acting ability by turning a pop song into an acting piece, all of which was only accompanied by a solo guitar.

Empty Chairs and Empty Tables was next on the list, engagingly executed by Michael Ball, obviously knowing this song well having sung it in the show. Sticking with Michael Ball he then performed Love Changes Everything from Aspects of Love which was incredibly uplifting after the serious Empty Chairs. Love Changes Everything (being the classic crowd pleaser) had all the serious Ball fanatics on their feet by the end! Another slightly different injection was the song Sunset, performed by Matthew Little, a very anthemic song accompanied by the drummers from the Band of the Queen’s Division. Closing the entire show was the popular song from Les Misérables, Do You Hear The People Sing? A very apt song for the topic of this evening, performed by the entire company of this evenings cast, soloists, ensemble, instrumentalists and choir.

Overall the concert was very successful to say they had a very limited number of rehearsals and of course all proceeds from the concert go to the Help The Heroes charity, a charity that helps the people and families that have suffered life-changing injuries out on the battlefield fighting for our country.

Reviewed by Tom Yates