Director: Nikolai Foster
Curve’s performance spaces were designed with the maximum of flexibility in mind allowing it not just to adapt to the current COVID restrictions but to actively work with them to do the best possible job it can in the current circumstances. For this event, the divider between the main and studio spaces has been removed and some seats have been relocated beside the stage, providing an in-the-round experience for the maximum audience while maintaining the spacing needed. The result is an experience that, one-way systems and sparser seating notwithstanding, still feels somehow ‘right’.
The set for this evening’s performance has the feel of a rehearsal room, with lights, crates and steps apparently strewn haphazardly. It also includes a revolve, provided, we’re told, courtesy of Cameron Mackintosh. However, in the opening number, the cast set the scene for the rest of the evening as they prepare the area while singing a charming tribute to Lloyd Webber’s music acapella and in close harmony. It’s already obvious that we have a high-quality cast to lead us through a roughly chronological romp through the Lloyd Webber canon.
It’s unfortunate that one cast member, Karen Mavundukure, sustained a leg injury prior to this performance: as a result, she is restricted to a wheelchair and unable to take part in the choreography. Nevertheless, she is able to join in with gusto from the side of the stage while her two lead performances, I Don’t Know How to Love Him and Light at the End of the Tunnel, take place centre stage and showcase a powerful and expressive voice. Many of the cast are experienced in singing Lloyd Webber – there’s no fewer than three former Eva Perons here – and it’s no surprise that they sing sensitively and with feeling. As Norma Desmond, Ria Jones seems to expand to fill the stage and the whole space with her voice in With One Look. Madalena Alberto brings the right amount of vulnerability and defiance to Eva in Buenos Aires and, of course, Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina. Tim Howar glowers as his voice swoops as the phantom singing the iconic Music of the Night. Jessica Daley shows her impressive range in Unexpected Song, showing off a voice full of clarity and purity. Tim Rogers was in the original Australian cast of Love Never Dies and demonstrates exactly why in his heartfelt rendition of ‘Til I Hear You Sing. Recent drama school graduate, Shem Omari Jones, displays a bluesy and lyrical feel in All I Ask Of You, duetting with Daley. When a chorus is needed, the youngsters of the Curve Youth and Community Company (CYCC) oblige, for example, in Any Dream Will Do and, with great enthusiasm, in School of Rock’s Stick it to the Man.
In addition to the parade of showstoppers from the main cast, there’s also time to squeeze in Lloyd Webber’s bouncy Variation 23 – with Natalie Hancock on cello – and a pure and fragile Pie Jesu sung by CYCC member Alyshia Dhakk. The whole is supported well by a band of eight under the direction of Matthew Spender-Smith.
Between segments, we’re treated to filmed inserts from Lloyd Webber, setting the scene for each and telling anecdotes in pieces filmed around Leicester. And during the second half, the cast members discuss their backgrounds and links to Lloyd Webber in a rather charming section.
This is a fine tribute to Lloyd Webber – more than once one feels the hairs standing up and maybe a pricking behind the eyes – well worth seeing for musical theatre fans.
Runs until 19 June 2021