Review by Daz Gale
The West End Musical brand is growing from strength to strength. Having tackled brunches, drive ins and of course the incredible annual Musical Con, they are now back in the West End where they belong for another one of their famed one-night-only concerts. Previous celebrations have included Love Songs and Christmas but this time around it was a spooktacular evening for their second West End Musical Halloween. But would this be more trick or treat?
Produced by West End Musical Productions, founded by Shanay Holmes and Chris Steward, this occasional concert series has become a firm favourite among theatre lovers as it not only gives them a chance to see some incredibly talented performers having fun out of the context of a musical, it also encourages the audience to share in the fun, singing and dancing along to their hearts content. Given the conversation about singing along to musicals since their last concert took place in February, concerts like this one show the happy medium, giving a space for audiences to join in (though this was more minimal than had been encouraged) respectfully without irritating their fellow audience members. Thankfully, no fights broke out a la The Bodyguard and Vanessa Feltz was nowhere to be seen, making up her own lyrics.
As you might imagine, the setlist on offer for West End Musical Halloween was a series of spooky favourites, although the theme may have been a little bit looser this time around than last years offering, putting West End performers in fancy dress upon a dark and eerie stage setting that Jamie Lloyd would be proud of was enough to retain the theme on a gloomy Sunday evening.
Producer Shanay Holmes hosted the affair, displaying her own incredible talents throughout with offerings from Hocus Pocus 2 and Thriller amongst others. She was reunited with her Miss Saigon co-star from earlier this year as Joanna Ampil joined her for a stunning duet of ‘I Still Believe’ from the show. Joanna Ampil used the concert as an excuse to burst out her repertoire, delivering a further performance from Miss Saigon and a bit of ‘Memory’ from Cats. While maybe not the most obvious choices for a Halloween concert, hearing this incredible performer bless us with her gifts was as much of a treat as it gets.
Two Heathers alumni were also on the bill with Jacob Fowler coming fresh from the final night of the tour to reprise ‘Freeze Your Brain’, complete with a group of skeleton dancers in a performance that should be added into the main show from here on out as well as a brilliantly sinister 'Dentist!' from Little Shop of Horrors. Previous Heather Chandler Maddison Firth took on the role of Veronica for a bit of ‘Dead Girl Walking’ but it was a sneak peek of ‘Defying Gravity’ that really tore the roof of the Lyric Theatre. As Maddison is about to understudy the role of Elphaba in Wicked, she really delivered a powerhouse performance on what was easily one of the standouts of the night.
Another cast reunion came in the form of Death Note with Aimie Atkinson and Joaquin Pedro Valdes reuniting for a performance of ‘Suddenly Seymour’ from Little Shop of Horrors. Death Note did get an outing though with Joaquin treating the audience to a stunning rendition of ‘Hurricane’ from the show as well as a rousing ‘Heaven On Their Minds’ from Jesus Christ Superstar. Meanwhile, Aimie delighted the audience with the spooky song they had all been waiting for in the form of ‘Dead Mom’ from Beetlejuice (Bring it to the West End already!) as well as debuting an original song with her new single ‘Monster’, proving there really is no end to her talents.
Perhaps the setlist this time around wasn’t as varied as last year’s Halloween offering, with five numbers from Little Shop of Horrors whereas the only bit of The Phantom of the Opera we got was a stunning violin solo to open the show, and shockingly just one number from The Rocky Horror Show. With offerings from The Addams Family, Sweeney Todd and Jekyll & Hyde, there was still a great presence of Halloween-esque musicals, though these were joined by Miss Saigon and Heathers – the issue is how you interpret the theme of Halloween. Dolling yourself up in glitter (just a normal day for me) and performing with a bunch of skeletons can turn any song into a spooktacular sensation.
The greatest aspect of the West End Musical series is seeing performers come together for some unique performances. From the aforementioned duets from Joaquin and Aimie as well as Shanay and Joanna, we also got a high-energy and fabulously chaotic group performance of ‘Ghostbusters’ to close the show. It’s that unbridled joy and energy that is hard to do justice to in a review, as the atmosphere at these concerts is always second to none and ensures you have a smile on your face from start to finish.
If this series of concerts are a reliable source for fun, West End Musical Halloween was no exception. A truly remarkable group of performers showed no end to their talent with a diverse setlist ranging from songs they are known for and something different to celebrate spooky season. As Shanay and Chris managed with West End Musical Con last week, events like this are paramount for bringing the community together, making theatre accessible and creating a safe space for all theatre lovers to live their best lives, let their hair down and dance with the living dead. West End Musical Halloween was another triumph – I guess the fairest way to describe it would be dead good.
Shanay Holmes - One Way Or Another (from Hocus Pocus 2)
Joanna Ampil - Memory (from Cats)
Aimie Atkinson - Good 'N' Evil (from Jekyll & Hyde)
Joaquin Pedro Valdes - Grow For Me (from Little Shop of Horrors)
Joaquin Pedro Valdes & Aimie Atkinson - Suddenly Seymour (from Little Shop of Horrors)
Joanna Ampil & Shanay Holmes - I Still Believe (from Miss Saigon)
Jacob Fowler - Freeze Your Brain (from Heathers)
Maddison Firth - Pulled (from The Addams Family)
Joaquin Pedro Valdes - Hurricane (from Death Note)
Jacob Fowler - Pretty Women (from Sweeney Todd)
AImie Atkinson - Dead Mom (from Beetlejuice)
Maddison Firth - Defying Gravity (from Wicked)
Shanay Holmes - Mean Green Mother From Outerspace (from Little Shop of Horrors)
Maddison Firth - Dead Girl Walking (from Heathers)
Shanay Holmes & Aimie Atkinson - Little Shop Of Horrors (from Little Shop of Horrors)
Maddison Firth – Touch-a Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me (from The Rocky Horror Show)
Jacob Fowler - Dentist! (from Little Shop of Horrors)
Joanna Ampil - If You Want To Die In Bed (from Miss Saigon)
Aimie Atkinson - Monster (original song)
Joaquin Pedro Valdes - Heaven On Their Minds (from Jesus Christ Superstar)
Jacob Fowler - Everybody (Backstreet's Back) (from &Juliet)
Shanay Holmes - Thriller (from Thriller)
Shanay, Joanna, Aimie, Jacob, Maddison & Joaquin - Ghostbusters
West End Musical returns for their Christmas concert on 12th December. Tickets from https://www.westendmusicalchristmas.co.uk/