From Godspell and Pippin to Wicked and The Prince of Egypt, Stephen Schwartz has been composing musicals for more four decades now and so has amassed quite the songbook. So it makes sense that it is to him that Thespie has turned to launch their Reunited series, a set of four filmed concerts premiering throughout December and featuring some pretty amazing musical theatre talent.
First up is Unlimited: The Songs of Stephen Schwartz, which gathers together nine alumni of the London production of Wicked, now in its 14th year, to cherry-pick their favourite songs and deliver them in socially-distanced concert style in the swanky Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel. Not only that, there’s a guest appearance from the man himself, Schwartz introducing the gig from his piano with a soaring snatch of Pippin.
It’s a Celebrations box of a gig (except with the Bounty), treat after treat in its 50-some minutes. Dianne Pilkington’s exceptional ‘Meadowlark’, Oliver Tompsett nailing Children of Eden’s ‘A World Without You’, Alice Fearn and Liam Tamne duetting sweetly on Pocahontas’ ‘If I Never Knew You’ (Schwartz serving as lyricist there), Carl Man’s impassioned ‘Beautiful City, every note from Alexia Khadime’s mouth… They’re all accompanied beautifully by Nick Barstow from the piano, his musical direction ensuring a lovely clarity to the interpretations here.
If we’re picking favourites, then Melanie La Barrie sauntering through ‘Turn Back O Man’ from Godspell is such a classy twist on the song, tempering the track’s inner vamp is up there. As is the trio of Sophie Evans, Pilkington and Tompsett on ‘On The Willows’. And the five part harmony is scattered through the closing ‘For Good’ is a thing of real beauty. I really enjoyed the snippets of interviews scattered throughout too, entertaining little insights into these performers enhancing the experience.