Conductor: Michael England
Take four bona fide musical theatre stars – with credits spanning Annie Get Your Gun, Avenue Q, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Spamalot, Wicked and The Wizard of Oz among others – and add a conductor who has served as musical director for several of those as well as Jerry Springer – The Opera and Miss Saigon. Combine them with the majesty and power of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and the world-class acoustics of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, and you have all the ingredients for a cracking evening of musical theatre. And so it turns out. Conductor Michael England leads the evening, conducting with economical movements and also proving an interesting MC, providing little nuggets of information about the pieces and their writers along the way. And vocalists Daniel Boys, Scott Davies, Sophie Evans and Alice Fearn each set the bar high in terms of singing and acting ability.
Indeed, it is the acting and delivery of the songs that set this particular concert aside from many. The singers’ musical theatre pedigrees are clear as they provide spine-tingling moments and showstoppers with equal ease, backed up by an orchestra that swells and swings, rocks and rolls and plays with delicacy or thunderously with equal ease and mastery.
The evening opens with the overture from Gypsy that showcases the rich brass and smooth strings of the CBSO. Later, they will shine again with the overture from Mack and Mabel, with some lyrical playing from the brass section. When all four vocalists sing together, their voices harmonise well; they’re also comfortable with complex rhythms as found in The Rhythm of Life from Sweet Charity, a barnstorming end to the first half. Boys really shows off his acting ability with Mr Cellophane from Chicago, with a hesitant, slightly bemused air that develops as the song goes on. He brings a quiet sincerity to Can You Feel the Love Tonight? from The Lion King. Davies has a fine and powerful tenor voice that he uses to great effect in This is the Moment from Jekyll and Hyde as well as in Some Enchanted Evening that is sung with terrific sincerity. Evans seems a touch nasal in the first half, but that is swept aside in her rendition of The Sound of Music, with a real sense of joy underpinned by a hint of vulnerability, and by the delicacy with which she performs Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz. Fearn has many facets to her singing, whether it’s ironic comedy in Anything You Can Do with Davies, a sense of longing in Broadway Baby from Follies or delivering a showstopping Defying Gravity from Wicked.
The program has been well chosen to showcase the singers’ talents as well as provide a mix of the familiar with the maybe slightly less well known. The whole comes together in a flawless evening of music and entertainment; one that is likely to live on in the memory of the audience.
Reviewed on 28 February 2020