West End Live
Trafalgar Square, London
Saturday 24th & Sunday 25th June 2017
Reviewed by Jade Prince
Another West End Live has come and so quickly gone. I always wish it was longer, but even at the end of two days in Trafalgar Square this ginger was screaming “OMG! ENOUGH!” This will be a longer post than usual, as the event took place over two days. Hope you still enjoy reading it!
Towards the end of June each year, one weekend transforms Trafalgar Square into the stagiest place in London. Thousands of theatre lovers flock to the square to see what the West End currently has to offer, with different shows performing throughout the day as well as special solo guest performers. Did I mention it is free? Yep! Entrance is free all weekend. Such a perfect way to introduce more people to theatre! Saturday is the biggest and longest of the two days with many of the well-known musicals performing. Seven hours of stagey fun! The Sunday has a slightly shorter schedule with certain shows from Saturday doing repeat performances. Further into the Sunday schedule many musical theatre solo performers make special appearances.
Once again this year I was able to attend both days with friends and like always, had so much fun!
Saturday 24th June
I arrived late due to rehearsal (I snuck out early because Dreamgirls were performing at 13:20 and I HAD to be there for them!) I arrived half way through Phantom of the Opera and by that time I had missed acts from Wicked, 42nd Street, Kinky Boots, Aladdin to name a few however, I didn’t mind much as I have already seen those shows and all the performances from both days are recorded. They were slightly ahead of schedule which was surprising, but I soon realised why when the presenters where on stage. The presenters for the Saturday were from Heart radio and, therefore seemed to have limited knowledge on musical theatre and very much stuck to their given scripts. Normally those presented with a far bit of knowledge on musical theatre will pad out the script with their own opinions of the upcoming show such as: “I really need to see this one,” or “I have seen this one and it was…,” or they gage the audiences excitement for it.
Personally, I found Dreamgirls to be the stand out performance of the whole weekend. It was covers galore (not surprising considering it was a double show day and a vocally demanding show for the leads.) The cast members on stage really went for it as it was Dreamgirls first ever performance at WestEnd Live. It was nice to see that they threw in an unexpected song, which they never normally perform. Typically it is ‘And I am Telling You I’m Not Going’ which they did do, but started the set off with ‘One Night Only’ which to my knowledge they have not performed outside of the theatre before.
After Dreamgirls, I spent a bit of time looking around the stalls and being glittered up courtesy of the Oxford Street stall. This year you were able to get up close to some of the Disney costumes from Aladdin and the Lion King, as well as enter competitions with awesome prizes up for grabs. There is always something for everyone in the family, from the Forbidden Planet stall to the Everything’s Rosie marque with face painting and free candyfloss. These stalls do change each year, but they always seem to have a similar age range. TKTS always have their own marque with theatre merchandise where you can purchase tickets for that day or the upcoming week at great rates.
Many other shows performed throughout the day until 6pm and some of my favourites included Thriller LIVE, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Toxic Avenger, Jesus Christ Superstar, 13 The Musical and Hair.
Thriller LIVE perform every year at WestEnd Live and it is always great music that everyone knows and can enjoy. This year there performance seemed to be really long in comparison to other slots and it felt like they performed every song from the show. Although, this was nice it might have been nice to cut their slot slightly shorter as it’s a relatively well known show. This would have then created more time for those shows just about to open or that have had less ‘hype’.
Everybody is Talking About Jamie is soon to open at the Apollo theatre this November. The musical is inspired by a documentary, which was aired on BBC 3 back in 2011 titled ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’. I personally am very intrigued and will definitely be going to see this once it opens after hearing the numbers performed.
Toxic Avenger is a show, which is coming back to London due to popular demand after it’s run at the Southwark Playhouse last year. I had personally never heard anything about this show until this weekend and I absolutely loved the music. Unsure of the actual storyline and from the performance on Saturday I have to say that I was given a real ‘Urinetown’ vive (another brilliant show which I wish had stayed around longer than what it did).
Jesus Christ Superstar was wonderful, as always. They opened with King Herod’s Song and the costume was very bizarre! And then Tyrone Huntly came on to perform ‘Heaven on Their Mind’; I am now even more excited to see him back in it this summer at Regent’s Park. It was a fabulous performance.
Two shows which are coming over to London this summer are 13 the musical and hair. The kids in 13 sounded incredible performing ‘The Lamest Place in the World’ and ‘Getting Ready’. There was a slight cringe moment when one of the boys looked far too young (in comparison to the rest of the cast) to be singing about being a sex god. I don’t know if it was just me feeling that way, but it was a little uncomfortable. Hair is opening at the Vaults this October as another immersive theatre experience. It was very difficult to gage its full potential, as the performance was so different to what will actually be seen but the music seemed enjoyable. There song choice didn’t really captivate me, but I will definitely be going to see it when it eventually opens.
And with that Saturday was over. A few friends and I did leave early as the last couple of performers were also repeated on the Sunday, but we all left on a high from day one and were super excited for day two!
Sunday 25th June
Trafalgar square started rocking out at 12pm on Sunday with School of Rock kicking the day off. Wow! They were loud! So loud. Far too much talent to start the day off. Those kids are too much! Until around 14:30 more west end shows performed including the regulars that are there every year (Stomp, Matilda, Disney’s the Lion King) along with a few new shows (Five Guys Named Moe and The Wind in the Willows).
Sundays always tend to be slightly different as many solo west end performers take to the stage. There is always a great line-up of solo acts and this year did not disappoint! Kerry Ellis kicked the solo section off by singing “It’s gonna be alright”, Panic Attack and “Finding Wonderland” from her most recent show ‘Wonderland’
The talent did not dwindle. Everyone in and near Trafalgar Square were hit with some amazing vocals. Rachel Tucker was most certainly a stand out performer and this was made even clearer when she came out as Marisha Wallace’s special guest. They both sung “Take Me or Leave Me” and left the crowd very weak. I don’t think I will ever get over that, it was definitely a spiritual experience!
Trevor Dion Nicholas gave a much unexpected performance with his band, Neighborhood Goliath. It was a completely different music style to what I was expecting, but it actually worked really well and got the whole audience engaged. “The Current” got people dancing.
John Owen-Jones was a sweetheart. He had the awkward job of introducing himself as for some reason her had taken over as presenter earlier in the day. He did it in such a humble and funny way. His performance was simply stunning. I had goose bumps everywhere from the moment he started singing till the very end. He even made the joke about being part of many different shows, but the only two people actually care about are Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables!
The show ended in the most perfect way with Marisha Wallace, Trevor Dion Nicholas and Nathan Amzi joining John on stage to sing one final song, “You’re The Voice”. This really brought home just how special musical theatre is and vital it is for the community. Even through difficult times thousands of people were able to come together for the weekend and unite over their one same love, musical theatre.
“So, today, this weekend, WestEnd Live is all about love. You are here, we’re all here because we love theatre and we love this city. Yeah? This country and this city has been through some dark and difficult times recently but what shone through all that darkness has been love and humanity. We are all here today to celebrate that. We are a community, we are a family” – John Owen-Jones.
You felt so much love radiate around Trafalgar Square as they performed the final song of the day. This finished a fabulous weekend off in the best and most loving way possible.
Videos of all the performances mentioned in this blog have been linked under the relevant names.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the dates to the stagiest weekend in London next year. All information can be found as it’s posted here: http://www.westendlive.co.uk/