Royal Hospital Chelsea, London
Guest reviewer: Charlotte O’Growney
As part of this year’s open-air concert line-up Live At Chelsea, some of the biggest names in musical theatre were joined by the Royal Symphonic Concert Orchestra to celebrate the 70th Birthday of Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of the most influential musical theatre composers of all time.
Compered by presenter Myleene Klass, the one-off concert was filled with gorgeous orchestral playing and staggering vocal performances across talent that ranged from recording artists such as Alfie Boe and Beverley Knight and stage stars Ben Forster and Jodie Prenger, as well as cast members from the noble Lord’s current West End hits The Phantom of The Opera and School of Rock.
Taking place within the grounds of the magnificent Royal Hospital Chelsea, and running at just under three hours, the concert packed in 27 well-loved numbers, drawn from Lloyd Webber’s vast back catalogue. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the song list yielded few surprises as it focused on his most adored musicals, but with such performances on display, the evening felt delightfully fresh from beginning to end.
Olivier Award winner Tyrone Huntley opened the evening with ‘Superstar’ from Jesus Christ Superstar. Huntley was to return in Act 2 to thrill the audiences with another of that show’s numbers, ‘Heaven On Their Minds’, effortlessly demonstrating why he is one of today’s most exciting musical theatre performers.
Amid the cosmic cluster of West End stalwarts, Ria Jones reprised her award-winning Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. The show’s timelessly cinematic score sounded sumptuous under John Rigby’s baton, with Jones’ take on As If We Never Said Goodbye probing magical, defining her deep and masterful connection to the show. Additionally, Michael Xavier who played Joe Gillis both at the Coliseum in the show’s 2016 revival and subsequently on Broadway, performed the musical’s title number to spine-tingling effect, rightly achieving one of the largest rounds of applause of the evening.
Headliners Boe and Knight were saved until after the interval, with Boe lending his rich tenor to an emotionally intense rendition of The Music of The Night from The Phantom of The Opera, while Knight brought the house down with Memory from Cats, her soulful vocals melding perfectly with the melancholy ballad.
After such an electrifying concert, it seemed only fitting that an explosion of fireworks brought the evening to a dazzling close, accompanied by the orchestra playing the audience out to a spirited version of Jellicle Cats. Featuring an abundance of striking performances, A Musical Celebration of Andrew Lloyd Webber was a grand spectacle of musical theatre greatness, and an appropriately lavish tribute to the impressive career of a man whose contribution to musical theatre not only on the West End but all around the world, is probably unparalleled.