It's been a week since the first theatres reopened their doors and now we are starting to see some great one off and limited series shows take their place in the West End. Last night saw the first concert in the Monday Night At The Apollo series, taking up occasional residency in the Apollo Theatre on Everybody's Talking About Jamie's day off.
Four months later than planned, the first concert embraced the changing trends in theatre consumption by giving people the option to stream the show online via Thespie as well as get tickets to be there in person. I went to the Apollo to see all the action unfold in front of me - and what a night it was!
Expertly compèred by Greg Barnett who kicked proceedings off with a rendition of 'Revival song', the concert boasted a lineup of five leading players in West End shows - Aimie Atkinson, Cassidy Janson, Cedric Neal, Julian Ovenden and Lucie Jones. The song list was a fairly diverse affair with act one covering a variety of genres including Dolly Parton, Adele and Tom Waits with act one highlights including a beautiful cover of 'Get Here' from Cassidy Janson while Cedric Neal took 'Just The Way You Are' to new depths with an amazing speech of accepting who you are.
Act 2 stuck to musical theatre but in a much more unpredictable setlist than you might have expected. Cassidy Janson revisited Chess for a storming 'Nobody's Side', Aimie Atkinson overcame sound problems for her take on the iconic 'Don't rain on my parade', proving she doesn't need a microphone to project her phenomenal voice to an audience, while Julian Ovenden tackled an Annie Get Your Gun medley. One number the audience may have expected and were thankful to get their wish was Lucie Jones mesmerising 'She Used To Be Mine' from Waitress. The audible gasp when the song started spoke volumes - seeing Lucie perform that song on a West End stage again made me feel back at home again.
With so many incredible performances, it's hard to single out any highlights. However, Cedric Neal well and truly shone with performances from The Wiz and a rousing 'Hold Me In Your Heart' from Kinky Boots, made all the more poiganant by his story about coming close to playing Lola in both the West End and Broadway productions. Cedric pre-warned the audience he may struggle to get through the song but he needn't have worried - this felt like his redemption and was undoubtedly THE performance of the night.
The evening also allowed some unique duets on the stage. Cedric Neal and Lucie Jones ended act 1 with a showstopping duet of 'Don't you worry bout a thing', Julian Ovenden and Cassidy Janson teamed up for 'All The Wasted Time' from Parade and theatre magic was made for the final performance of the night when Aimie, Cassidy and Lucie came together for a beautiful 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' complete with gorgeous harmonies.
What elevated this beyond your standard concert was the chat that came inbetween songs. With all five performers ever present on stage, the spontaneous interactions made this feel like a musical theatre version of The Graham Norton show. Lucie Jones proved how hilarious she is with anecdotes of losing to Jedward on The X Factor and demanding she has a wall knocked through at the theatre for her own dressing room while she is in Les Miserables (the two are not related).
Originally billed as a family show, it all descended into smut through the interactions including Cassidy Janson remembering a simulated sex scene with Julian who in turn reminisced about being naked on that very stage during his time in My Night With Reg in which the side he entered through was affectionately dubbed "Cock corner". Cedric Neal even coined his own catchphrase, twice asking "Is there any chance of a revival?" throughout the evening.
Five performers at the top of their game made sure that this was a night to remember. The fact we had some unexpected comedy inbetween beautiful performances made this an even more special affair. This was a reminder of how joyous, entertaining and truly unexpected a night at the theatre can be. Making us feel like we were in the performers homes casually chatting to them as they belted notes that give you goosebumps - just a standard Monday night. But what better place to spend a Monday night than at the Apollo.
This Monday Night at the Apollo concert can be streamed until Thursday 27th May from https://thespie.com/digital/monday-night-at-the-apollo-24th-may-2021-thespie/2712
The next Monday Night at the Apollo stars Shan Ako, Arthur Darvill, Sophie Evans, Sandra Marvin, Oliver Tompsett and takes place on Monday 14th June. Tickets available from https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/shows/monday-night-at-the-apollo/