Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Direct From The West End Windsor.

Last Sunday I attended Direct From The West End a production put on at the Theatre Royal Windsor by Musical Ovation LTD created by current Les Miserables cast members Scott Garnham and Martin Neely.

The company consisted of Les Miserables cast members, past and present, with the exception of Jessie May who can currently be seen in Mamma Mia!

In their own words Musical Ovation LTD was formed "to supply elite, creative and original entertainment for the professional theatre industry and corporate market".

Now first of all I have to admit that I'm out of my element with this kind of concert. I'm use to back rooms in pubs with sticky floors and cramped venues full of teenage girls with too much eye make-up and boys with personal hygiene issues.

Everybody here is very quiet and since it is in a theatre we are seated. However, it is a full house by the look of things and everybody seems excited in their own way.

We had our pre-show entertainment watching a man in the front row 'make out' with his ice cream lid and another in the row behind us try to no avail to try explain to his girlfriend how a show called Direct From The West End will in fact have performers from the West End singing songs from shows from the West End. She still seemed confused by the time the lights began to dim.

It is deafly silent when the show opens with 'A New World' from 'Songs For A New World'. I'm already hooked and impressed at this point since this is one of my favourite songs.
Killian and Scott during rehearsals.

It was a flawless rendition of the song performed by the full company which consists of; Gina Beck (Phantom of the Opera), Rachel Bingham (Les Miserables), Killian Donnelly (Les Miserables), Scott Garnham (Les Miserables), Jessie May (Mamma Mia!) and Jeff Nicholson (Les Miserables).

The first act was made up of hits from Phantom Of The Opera, Love Never Dies, Oliver, We Will Rock You, Guys And Dolls and Les Miserables.

The show also consisted of two special guests Samantha Barks (Les Miserables) who sung 'The Wizard And I' from Wicked in the first act and Antony Hansen (Wicked) who was due to sing 'Don't Stop Me Now' from We Will Rock You, which I was looking forward to, but ended up, for unknown reasons, singing the less impressive 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' from Jersey Boys.

Highlights from act one for me would have to be Jeff and Gina's 'Music Of The Night', 'The Wizard And I' from Samantha Barks, Scott, Jeff and Killian's two numbers from Guys And Dolls and the last ten minutes dedicated to Les Miserables.

After a short intermission act two began, opening with 'I Go To Rio'. The energy is a lot higher in the second act and the audience seem to start to let go a little bit now and more willing to openly enjoy themselves. This act pasted quicker then the first and left me wishing there was more.

Highlights for me in the second act were; Killian's charismatic and high energy cover of 'Superstar'.  Jeff's incredible rendition of 'Anthem' from Chess. Scott singing 'Maria', which I found very moving. 'Close Every Door' from Antony Hansen, making me wish I had seen him in Joseph. Another one from Jeff with 'Song Of The King', showing a very funny side. Lastly 'Memory' beautifully sung by Gina Beck.

Samantha Barks.
I really can't speak higher of Sam to the point where she could never not be perfect for me, so of course she was nothing less then that tonight. All three of her solo songs; 'The Wizard And I', 'On My Own' and 'Maybe This Time' were captivating and she was a joy to watch. I think the thing which I like and admire most about her, apart from her voice, is her incredible ability to convey such emotion and intent with a single look no matter how subtle that may be. She is a natural and gifted performer with a very long and exciting career ahead of her.

Antony Hansen.
Now I have to admit to not being too familiar with Antony. I can't really remember him on Any Dream Will Do (It was along time ago) and I haven't seen him in any shows. I wasn't too keen on any of his song choices apart from 'Close Every Door' which was a highlight for me and he sung it beautifully. He is a handsome lad and his presence draws you in. He's somebody I'll be keeping an eye out for in the future.

Scott Garnham.

Okay, where to start with Scott? Charming, funny, talented and he has such a presence on stage. I've only seen him as Feuilly in Les Miserables before so haven't really had a chance to see him in his full glory. He was my biggest welcome surprise of the evening. A true show man and amazing voice. Scott sung 'Till I hear You Sing', 'Luck Be A Lady Tonight' supported by Killian and Jeff and my personal favourite being 'Maria' from West Side Story which was perfection. I'm looking forward to what he'll be doing next. Hopefully become principle Marius in Les Miserables in June. That may just be wishful thinking though I'm afraid.

Rachel Bingham.
Like Antony I also didn't really like Rachel's song choices either, mainly because they're from shows I don't particularly like. She sung 'As Long As He Needs Me' from Oliver and 'The Winner Takes It All' from Mamma Mia! Despite this reason she almost got me liking them because it was her performing them. I have seen her in the Les Miserables ensemble a few times but like Scott I haven't been able to see her full potential until now. I think she is the full package and I hope there will be a lead somewhere in the near future for her because I definitely want to see more.

Jessie May.

Jessie is someone I wasn't familiar with in the slightest before now and wasn't likely to see with her being in Mamma Mia! (Sorry, I just really don't like the show). I'm really glad she was a part of the concert, she brought a fantastic energy to the show with her bubbly and bright attitude. Her personality really shone through during 'Somebody To Love' and she sung two duets with Killian Donnelly beautifully, 'All I Ask Of You' and 'Take Me As I Am'. Her range is fantactic and I can't wait to see her in her next show.

Killian Donnelly.
Now, to be honest Killian was one of the main reasons for me wanting to attend this in the first place. I have become quite a fan of his after seeing him in Les Miserables and wanted to see him singing something a bit different.
Killian is funny, charming and lets face facts he's VERY nice to look at. He has a great confidence and presence on stage which during group numbers drew me to look at him. He sung 'Bring Him Home' as if he was born to. I really hope within the next ten years he will make a return to Les Miserables as Valjean. 'Superstar' proved him to be just that and I would love to see him in something more 'upbeat' next or possibly as Raoul in Phantom of the Opera. His 'All I Ask Of You' was performed with such passion and devotion. He has a very bright and long career ahead of him.

Jeff Nicholson.
Jeff was mesmerizing every second he was on stage which I always find is the case when it comes to him. The thing which was plain to see is that Jeff should be the next Phantom. He embodies the role perfectly when he sung 'Phantom Of The Opera' and 'Music Of The Night'. He also performed another one of my favourite songs 'Anthem' and it is possibly the best performances of that song that I have heard. 'Song Of The King' was full of charm and charisma and the most fun of the evening. Jeff is one of my favourite actors/singers in the West End and I can't wait to see what the future holds for him.

Gina Beck.
The stage is definitely the right place for Gina. She seems at complete ease and was very confident in her performance. I was completely taken in when she sung 'Memory'. I would have liked to have heard another solo from Gina and also maybe seen her step out of her comfort zone and sung something less somber. I haven't been fortunate to see Gina in the West End yet but I will make sure that has changed by the end of the year. She has a beautiful and natural voice which I hope to hear a lot more in the future.

The evening was really a showcase for who the next bright stars of the West End will be and all bets placed on the eight artists above will definitely give you a generous return. All in all I think it was a huge success and I hope there are plans for some more concerts like this from Scott Garnham and Martin Neely in the near future.

Full Set List:

Act One.

A New World.
Phantom Of The Opera.
Music Of The Night.
All I Ask Of You.
Till I Hear You Sing.
The Wizard And I.
As Long As He Needs Me.
Can't Take My Eyes Off You.
Somebody To Love.
Fugue For Tinhorns.
Luck Be A Lady.
Own My Own.
Bring Him Home.
One Day More.

Act Two.

I Go To Rio.
Welcome To The Sixties.
Quintet (Tonight).
Maybe This Time.
The Winner Takes It All.
Prologue (Joseph).
Close Every Door.
Song Of The King.
Take Me As I Am.
This Is The Moment.
Never Forget.

Signed, JML.

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