"The show must go on" became the go-to phrase for anything related to theatre over the past 15 months. Theatres were closed, they re-opened and closed again (twice), reinvented themselves in new and creative ways (such as the many phenomenal streams and online concerts we were trated to) and were told they weren't viable - all the while the saying remained - The Show Must Go On.
The brilliant Theatre Support Fund used this saying for their fantastic range of merchandise to raise money for Acting For Others and the Fleabag Support Fund all bearing the now iconic saying. It seemed at one point every theatre fan and his dog (not literally - they haven't branched out into pet merchandise... yet) was wearing the t-shirt or the face mask. It also created brilliant moments of acknowledgement when you spotted someone else wearing the merchandise as you knew they were a kindred spirit. I myself had many a conversation with someone who either clocked me wearing it or when I spotted them. Having raised an amazing £900,000 (so far) for the charity, Theatre Support Fund also raised awareness of an industry that had been brought to its knees and disrespected by those who didn't see its value as well as raising the spirits of all those deprived theatre fans.
With the slogan made up of letters from 16 West End shows who were waiting for their return to the stage, The campaign grew and grew until it was announced a series of concerts would be staged at The Palace Theatre featuring performers from all 16 shows. In true "The Show Must Go On" fashion, this didn't go ahead as planned due to the announcements of Lockdown 2: Here We Go Again and Lockdown 3: Lockdown Never Dies. The show MUST go on and indeed it did (FINALLY) as the concerts are taking place this week, culminating on Sunday 6th June with the final concert being live streamed for free on YouTube (more on that later)
Now you have the background on how this concert came about, it's time for the review. But how do you review something as special as this? Truly no words will ever do it justice. If you plan to watch the stream and want to be surprised, stop reading now as the full setlist and spoilers are below. If you need convincing to watch it (WHY?) or would rather know what you are in for in advance (I bet you're the kind of person who reads the last page of a book first) then read on and prepare to be amazed:
The show is hosted by two musical theatre heavyweights - the iconic and truly legendary Bonnie Langford, who relished every opportunity to dance and move around in a way only she can (My seats at the end of the row gave me a great view of her in the wings while others were performing) and the fabulous Trevor Dion Nicholas who has wowed audiences on both sides of the Atlantic in his role as the Genie in Aladdin, they kicked things off in brilliant style with a new original song titled (you guessed it) 'The Show Must Go On' written by Stiles & Drewe. While the show remains the same every night during its short run, I was treated to another instance of "The Show Must Go On" when all the lights failed at the beginning of act 2. This led to Bonnie & Trevor having to fill time completely unplanned and unscripted for 10 minutes in hilarious fashion. While others may have struggled, this created an unexpected highlight of the night and a true reminder of why you can't beat the magic (and danger) of live theatre!
What followed was a constant revolving door of performances from 18 musicals - the 16 shows on the merchandise as well as two new and upcoming shows. It is so hard to single out any performances as they were all truly sensational and showstopping. I could talk about all of them individually but this review would be longer than the Zack Snyder cut of Les Miserables so, after much thought, I'm going to pick my top 5 performances from the night:
Aisha Jawando - We Don't Need Another Hero
Perhaps not the most obvious choice to sing from Tina but my personal favourite from the show. Aisha proved once again what a formidable talent she is showing off amazing vocals and somehow striking the delicate balance of encapsulating the essence of Tina Turner while still leaving her own mark on the song - a true masterclass of a performance.
Jordan Luke Gage - It's My Life
The whole point of &Juliet may be to show her side of the story without Romeo, but it was all about Romeo tonight as the phenomenal Jordan Luke Gage delivered a performance of Bon Jovi's classic song. We all know what a talent Jordan is but he seemed determined to push this to insane new levels during this concert as he hit a high note among the best I have ever heard on a stage which left me wondering if he was secretly the lovechild of Mariah Carey and Adam Lambert.
Trevor Dion Nicholas - You'll Be Back
He may be used to playing George Washington in Hamilton but he swapped the role for another George for this concert, channeling the madness of the King for a flawless and hilarious rendition of 'You'll Be Back', proving once again that Trevor can play any role.
Mazz Murray - The WInner Takes It All
There are some moments in theatre that will stay with me forever. Mazz's rendition of this ABBA classic is one of them. Like something out of a music video, the whole theatre seemed to go completely dark for this performance - all I could see was Mazz's face as if I was the only person in the room. A truly powerful and spine-tingling rendition of one of the greatest songs ever written.
John Owen Jones - Bring Him Home
Returning to the stage where he made his Les Miserables debut, John Owen-Jones reprised the role of Jean ValJean for a note-perfect rendition of one of the timeless highlights from the long running show. Not a dry eye in the house and a mid-show standing ovation greeted John at the climax of his performance.
Other performances I need to mention include the ridiculously talented Aimie Atkinson deliver a powerhouse vocal in 'I Can't Go Back' from Pretty Woman and Alice Fearn belting out 'Me and the Sky' from Come From Away for dear life. It was also a great night to celebrate understudies and alternates with Marcus Harman from Dear Evan Hansen, Hana Stewart from Six and Sharon Phull from Jamie all delivering sensational performances.
All performances were accompanied by a fantastic orchestra on stage proving how valuable they are (and why you shouldn't be cutting orchestras in half *cough*) led by Stuart Morley as well as a group of exceptional musical theatre Graduates performing alongside the headliners as a stunning choir. The show concluded with a jawdropping group performance of Queen's 'The Show Must Go On' (still technically musical theatre cos of We Will Rock You) which took an already iconic song whose message had been made all the more poignant over the past year and delivered a version of it that is one for the ages.
It's not an exaggeration when I say that each performance on the night was truly perfect. Unrelenting throughout, this show was a testament to how powerful, special and important theatre is. An incredible lineup, expertly produced and flawlessly performed meant this was a night for the ages - one you would remember always. A once in a lifetime event, it truly proved the power of theatre and why, despite all obstacles, the show must always go on.
The most obvious ★★★★★ I have ever given.
Trevor Dion Nicholas & Bonnie Langford - The Show Must Go On (Stiles and Drewe)
Jordan Luke Gage - It's My Life (&Juliet)
Hana Stewart - Heart of Stone (Six)
Janique Charles & Kayi Ushe - Can You Feel The Love Tonight (The Lion King)
Zizi Strallen & Children - Practically Perfect (Mary Poppins)
Trevor Dion Nicholas - You'll Be Back (Hamilton)
Marcus Harman - For Forever (Dear Evan Hansen)
Aimie Atkinson - I Can't Go Back (Pretty Woman)
Aisha Jawando - We Don't Need Another Hero (Tina)
Mazz Murray - The Winner Takes It All (Mamma Mia!)
Olly Dobson - The Power Of Love (Back To The Future)
Dom Simpson & Tom Xander - You And Me (But Mostly Me) (The Book of Mormon)
Alice Fearn - Me and the Sky (Come From Away)
Carly Thomas & Four Matildas - When I Grow Up (Matilda)
Sharan Phull - Beautiful/Spotlight (Everybody's Talking About Jamie)
John Owen-Jones - Bring Him Home (Les Miserables)
Rhys Whitfield & Lucy St. Louis - All I Ask Of You (The Phantom of the Opera)
Laura Pick - The Wizard and I (Wicked)
Alexia Khadime & Christine Allado - When You Believe (The Prince of Egypt)
Mazz Murray, John Owen-Jones, Laura Pick, Alice Fearn & Full Company - The Show Must Go On (Queen)
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT
The Show Must Go On! continues to play the Palace Theatre this weekend with shows on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th June. There are a few remaining seats for these shows at nimaxtheatres.com but be quick as these are 99% sold out!
The show on Sunday 6th June at 7pm will be live-streamed via YouTube at youtube.com/theshowsmustgoon
It will then be available to watch on demand for a week.
This is completely free to watch but donations are encouraged and, quite frankly, deserved. So please donate what you can while watching.
To donate, go to https://theatresupportfund.co.uk/collections/donate
Text to Donate (UK Only)
THEATRE 10 to 70460 to donate £10
THEATRE 20 to 70460 to donate £20
THEATRE 30 to 70460 to donate £30
Donations will go to Acting for Others & Fleabag Support Fun
You can also continue to support the charity by purchasing their amazing range of merchandise from https://theatresupportfund.co.uk/collections/frontpage
Merchandise from the concert including the programme will be added to the website next week too.
Whether you can donate or not, please watch this concert if you can. This really is something incredibly special and a must see for any self respecting fan of musical theatre.
Performance photos by Johan Persson.