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Kings of Broadway: Herman, Sondheim & Styne

A concert at The Palace Theatre, London. Reviewed by Jarlath O’Connell

n the not too distant past Sunday night gala concerts at the big West End theaters were a fairly regular occurrence over the winter months. Some were star studded, some not, but they gave us a chance to see emerging talent set next to the pros. For reasons of economics and/ or changing tastes these events are now very rare, so the eff orts of Alex Parker Theatre Company and director Alastair Knights to resurrect them must be applauded. For this show they delivered a


potpourri of three Broadway giants: Herman, Sondheim and Styne. Parker is a supremely talented MD and what makes these shows spe- cial is that he engages a full orches- tra as opposed to the more meagre pit bands we’re used to in the West End. It’s a treat for both performers and audiences alike and Parker’s joy in this material is palpable. The line-up was a mix of estab- lished stars such as Janie Dee (lumi- nous in gold lamé), Anne Reid and Caroline O’Connor who bring both presence and experience, newer acclaimed talents such as Richard Fleeshman, Jamie Parker and Laura Pitt-Pulford and a sampling of the current crop of up and coming West End talent. Watching the newer performers

Caroline Sheen, Zoë Doano & Celinde Schoenmaker

shine makes these evenings and highlights included Bradley Jaden’s powerful ‘Maria’. This requires both great range and interpretative abil- ity and he has it all. On the evidence of this someone needs to cast him in the next West Side Story. Likewise Fra Fee, who has already been a perfect Candide at the Menier, here singing a tender ‘Move On’ from Sunday in the Park with George with Laura Tebbutt. Fee combines great vocal technique with heartfelt emo- tion and turned this into another calling card for him. Anna O’Byrne’s beautiful

soprano voice also impressed in ‘Let’s See What Happens’ from Styne’s rare fl op Darling of the Day as well as in an excerpt from Into the Woods where Jamie Parker also shone. Parker, who is about to star in Guys and Dolls at the Savoy, then opened Act Two as the center of a deftly staged title number from Company. Again, somebody, please cast him in it. The simple concept, a celebra-

tion of three musical giants, was welcome but it did at times create the odd jolt. Swerving suddenly from the subtle nuances of Into the Woods straight into La Cage Aux Folles does require some adjust- ment. Curiously La Cage is the one

show which appeared most dated. None of the songs fare well in a concert setting and perhaps it’s time for a moratorium. Alex Parker also used the concert

to remind us of some of the less familiar works by Styne with forays into Darling of the Day or Hallelu- jah Baby. Celinde Schoenmaker, with the orchestra helping out as a chorus, even gave us a spirited ‘10,432 Sheep’, which Doris Day fi rst sung in the now forgotten movie The West Point Story. These old numbers tested the vocal versatility of this young cast who earn their bread and butter no doubt on more modern jukebox shows, Wicked or Disney. Parker and Knights are to be commended for the breadth of the programme. In terms of all round impact

though Richard Fleeshman of Ghost and Urinetown fame gets the prize for both aiming high and delivering. He bounced around the stage like a gazelle doing vaudeville whilst not missing a word of Sondheim’s great tongue twister ‘Buddy’s Blues’ from Follies. The phrasing owed more than a little to Mandy Patinkin’s classic version but it was no less brilliant for that. He pulled it off which is what nights like this are all about.

The American 59


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