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Review: West End Musical Christmas (Lyric Theatre)

Review by Daz Gale

Tis the season to bring a bunch of West End superstars together to celebrate all things Christmas. Taking place a year later than originally planned, was West End Musical Christmas worth the wait?

The West End Musical... series has proved itself to be a resilient and versatile lifeline during the uncertain times we are facing. Founded by Chris Steward and Shanay Holmes, they are famed for their brilliant brunches. However, when indoor performances weren't allowed, they created the brilliant West End Musical Drive In. These Christmas concerts were planned for the Palace Theatre last year but never got the chance as restrictions changed. With the increase in Covid cases over the last week and shows being forced to close at a moments notice, it looked like history might be repeating itself. However, the show must go on and on it went.

Shanay Holmes was on hand to host proceedings - herself no stranger to the stage at the Lyric as she performs there in the cast of Get Up, Stand Up most nights. Kicking off the night with 'All I Want For Christmas Is You', it made it clear this was going to be no ordinary Christmas concert as songs of that calibre are usually reserved for encores. Where could they possibly go from there? As it turns out, setting the bar THAT high to begin with was a risky move which paid off as the level didn't dip throughout.

Shanay announced to the audience West End Musical Christmas was no regular concert and that she not only wanted them to participate but she expected them to be part of the cast, singing and dancing throughout. While some of them may have been a bit slow to react to that (It wasn't until Oliver Ormson's 'Merry Christmas Everyone' that they really got in the party spirit) - with all the bad news and the uncertainty of whether theatres will be able to stay open after Christmas, it was the escapism we all very much needed.

Photo by Bonnie Britain

The setlist was, as expected, a mix of musical theatre favourites and some well loved Christmas classics, weiwith a few surprises mixed in. This included a brilliant version of 'Joyful, Joyful' from Sister Act 2 performed by Shanay and Obi Ugoala, satisfyingly recreating choreography from the movie. That wasn't something I ever knew I needed to see live but was very thankful to have witnessed. One of the biggest surprises was a Heathers meets Mean Girls mash up which saw Jodie Steele reunite with two of her fellow Heathers - Teleri Hughes and Inez Budd for a rendition of 'Jingle Bell Rock' before dominating the evening with a showstopping 'Candy Store' complete with the audience screaming the line "Why now are you pulling on my dick" at the top of their voices. If that's not what you want from a Christmas concert, I don't know what is.

Photo by Bonnie Britain

The vocals at this concert were out of this world. The aforementioned Jodie Steele never fails to wow me with her ridiculous range, hitting notes even Mariah Carey would say were out of reach. Also blowing the audience away with her vocals was Emma Hatton, stunning when she revisited her time in Wicked for an incredible version of 'The Wizard and I' before delivering one of the performances of the night with an audience pleasing Frozen medley of 'Let It Go' and 'Into The Unknown'.

Photo by Bonnie Britain

John Owen-Jones has been doing the rounds at these Christmas concerts, having appeared at Lucie Jones shows last week. Having teased the audience saying he refused to ever sing 'Bring Him Home' again (followed by boos and the brilliant response "I'm not taking heckles tonight"), he followed an original song from his new Christmas album, he sure enough performed that iconic song in a way only he can, reminding every person in that audience why musical theatre is so special. John also was responsible for other highlights of the night including act one closer 'O Holy Night' and a rousing version of 'Come Alive' from The Greatest Showman.

Oliver Ormson got some of the most unexpected song choices of the night, brilliantly performing numbers from Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas while Obi Ugoala showed why he is one of the finest voices in the West End with his take on classics 'The Christmas Song' and 'This Christmas'. The six main performers united at the end to send the audience home with a smile on 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'.

Photo by Bonnie Britain

It's been a tough couple of weeks for theatre. Seeing shows cancel at a moments notice and the uncertainty of what the immediate future holds perhaps gave me an even greater appreciation this event was able to take place than I might have done at the beginning of the month. Walking into the theatre knowing there was a chance this could be my last show for a while was more emotional than I might have expected. However, if this is my last show of the year, what a way to end it. Incredible vocals, a fabulously varied and fresh setlist (No Slade or Wizzard in sight, for which I am thankful) and enough joy to fill a sleigh meant this was a truly remarkable concert that ensured all had a good night. Let's hope for a more stable 2022 - one in which I hope sees a return for West End Musical Christmas.



Stage Box Kids - Where Are You Christmas

Shanay Holmes - All I Want For Christmas Is You

John Owen-Jones - Now More Than Ever

John Owen-Jones - Bring Him Home

Emma Hatton - Once Upon A December

Jodie Steele - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Obi Ugoala - The Christmas Song

Shanay Holmes - Sleigh Ride

Jodie Steele, Teleri Hughes & Inez Budd - Jingle Bell Rock

Jodie Steele, Teleri Hughes & Inez Budd - Candy Store

Oliver Ormson - World's Greatest Dad

Emma Hatton - The Wizard and I

Shanay Holmes - You're A Mean One, Mr Grinch

John Owen-Jones - O Holy Night


Shanay Holmes, Obi Ugoala & Stage Box Kids - Joyful, Joyful

Oliver Ormson - What's This?

John Owen-Jones - Holly Jolly Christmas

Jodie Steele - It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Shanay Holmes - White Christmas/Jingle Bells (Audience Singalong)

Emma Hatton - Let It Go/Into The Unknown

Obi Ugoala - This Christmas

Shanay Holmes - Rockin' Robin

Oliver Ormson - Merry Christmas Everyone

John Owen-Jones & Shanay Holmes - Come Alive


Shanay, John, Emma, Jodie, Obi & Oliver - Santa Claus is Coming To Town

Look out for a new monthly series of West End Musical Celebration at the Lyric Theatre in 2022. Tickets on sale soon from

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