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The West End Men in Concert Charms Guildford Audience
Starring: Matt Rawle, Lee Mead and Stephen Rahman-Hughes, with Special Guest Star Kerry Ellis
Wednesday, 18th July
(Review by Fiona Lister)
Last Wednesday, three of the hottest, most talented leading West End men dazzled Guildford audiences at G Live. Lee Mead, Matt Rawle and Stephen Rahman-Hughes starred in the most talked about opening night in Surrey and played to a packed house. They were joined by stunning Special Guest Star Kerry Ellis and a choir (the PPA Singers) directed by Nick Larkin. What’s more, audiences in Guernsey are now in for a treat when the show arrives at the Sir John Loveridge Hall for two nights, on Saturday 28th July at 7:45 p.m. and Sunday 29th July at 7:45 p.m. The Choir will be directed by Leila Begg for the Progressive School of Music. The West End Men is produced by Milton Morrissey Ltd and impresario Jason Haigh-Ellery. Jason’s productions include Footloose, The Wedding Singer and Never Forget. The West End Men is a magical concert that gives regional audiences a taste of stunning showstopping charm and pays tribute to some of the world’s greatest composers and lyricists.
Theatregoers were treated to a two-hour long Concert at G Live featuring songs by composers including Andrew Lloyd Webber, Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schonberg, Queen, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II and Stephen Schwartz.
Directed by Mitch Sebastian with Musical Supervisor/Arrangements by David White and Musical Director Will Stuart, the Concert opened with a beautiful song “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory which was sung by all three charismatic stars. The show featured the most exquisite blend of diverse, romantic melodies and ballads from musicals including: Love Never Dies; Martin Guerre; The Phantom of the Opera; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Bombay Dreams; Tell Me on A Sunday; Evita; Les Misérables; Carousel; West Side Story; Beauty and the Beast; Wicked; We Will Rock You, and Violet.
Lee Mead who first shot to stardom by winning the coveted role of Joseph in the BBC series Any Dream Will Do gave a mesmerising performance with “Close Every Door”, a song that in 2007 raised money for the BBC’s annual Children in Need charity appeal. Mead sang “Better”, one of the most haunting, powerful songs of the evening by Irish boyband Boyzone (original song released by independent British singer-songwriter Tom Baxter). I have to admit this is one of my favourite melodies, which also features on Lee Mead’s Love Songs album. Lee Mead has enjoyed a varied musical career – in 2008 he performed “All I Ask Of You” with Hayley Westenra in Hyde Park at Lord Lloyd Webber’s 60th Birthday celebrations. Following his West End run in Joseph, Mead performed at the Theatre Royal Windsor, in the revival of Oscar Wilde’s Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime, a story that was adapted by Trevor Baxter and created into a Victorian comic melodrama. Later that year, in 2010, he played the role of Fiyero in Wicked. More recently, Lee has starred in Legally Blonde after which he toured with his new band. Please click here to find out more about Lee, his new album, up-and-coming projects and the charities he supports: http://www.leemead.co.uk/
Award-winning choreographer and musical star Stephen Rahman-Hughes sang a wonderful song “Journey Home” from the Bollywood-themed musical Bombay Dreams by A. R. Rahman, featuring lyrics by Don Black and the book by Meera Syal and Thomas Meehan. Bombay Dreams was produced in 2002 by Andrew Lloyd Webber and ran at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London for two years, opening on Broadway at The Broadway Theatre in April 2004, running to June 2005. Bombay Dreams has also toured in North America.
Stephen originated the role of Akassh in both the West End and Broadway productions. One of the highlights of the evening was his spellbinding rendition of “’Til I Hear You Sing” taken from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies. In between songs Stephen entertained the audience with charming anecdotes about his musical and television roles. Please take a look at Stephen’s website for all the exciting film projects he’s currently involved in (lead role Merong in the action epic feature film Malay Chronicles – Bloodlines) and do listen to his newly released début solo album Malay: http://itunes.apple.com/my/album/stephen-rahman-hughes/id532914863.
Matt Rawle captivated the audience with “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” in what was the most heavenly song of the evening. I will never forget hearing this breathtaking ballad. The song was written in 1939 by Eric Maschwitz with music by Manning Sherwin and it’s thought the European Robin is the inspiration for the dear Nightingale who sings during the night in the lit, leafy square. Matt certainly moved the audience to tears. Matt has most notably appeared in roles including the title role of Zorro (Garrick Theatre and UK Tour) for which he was nominated for Best Actor in a Musical – 2008 Whatsonstage Theatregoers’ Choice Awards and 2009 Olivier Awards; Aspects of Love (UK Tour); Evita at the Adelphi Theatre (Best Actor WOS nomination, Olivier nomination) and Assassins at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (Best Performance in a Musical nomination TMA Awards).
Kerry Ellis joined the West End Men as the Special Star Guest. Dressed in a beautiful sparkling gold evening gown courtesy of Lana Marie, Creative Director of Ariella Fashions & Ariella Couture (www.ariella.com), Kerry resembled a Grecian goddess. Mascara Collections (www.mascaracollection.com) and Jitrois Leather (www.jitrois.com) must also be credited for providing Kerry’s stunning look. I last watched Kerry perform at the WOS Awards www.whatsonstage.com earlier this year where she sang the rocked up version of “Defying Gravity” from Wicked with Queen guitarist Brian May accompanying her on guitar. This was the highlight of WOS and everyone who watched the show is still talking about it. Kerry together with Brian May collaborated on her first CD release, Wicked Rock, which I recommend listening to http://www.dresscircle.co.uk/DisplayDetail.aspx?pid=1646. Kerry explained to the G Live audience how she met Brian when she originated the role of Meat in Queen’s We Will Rock You. Kerry’s career has seen her in starring roles in London and Broadway. Everyone in musical theatre knows and loves Kerry’s work - she was the first British Elphaba to star in the long-running West End smash hit production of Wicked winning her the 2008 Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Takeover in a Role. Kerry also played the role on Broadway, winning the Broadway.com Audience Award for Favourite Female Breakthrough Performance.
Kerry sang with all three West End Men, but I particularly loved hearing “As Long As You’re Mine” from Wicked sung with Lee Mead. The performance was the most electrifying of the night. Kerry sang a slightly newer version of “Defying Gravity” and finished on the song “Only The Good Die Young”. Kerry has also played the role of Fantine in Les Misérables and it was lovely to hear her sing “I Dreamed A Dream”. Please click here to find out more about the sensational star and her work: http://kerryellis.com/.
The set design by Kate Unwin and Lighting Design by Graham McLusky was simple, captured the romantic mood and made wonderful use of G Live’s large space, with a staircase and five-piece band on stage. The band: Will Stuart (Piano/Musical Director); James Turner (Drums/Percussion); Dave Bishop (Flute/Saxophone); Jo Nichols (Bass Guitar/Double Bass) and Leon Rossiter (Guitar) moved effortlessly from one musical number into the next. There was a fabulous solo performance from David Bishop who played the Saxophone. Watch out for this guy. He’s extraordinarily talented. The Sound Design by Andy Johnson worked well and the band never drowned out the singing - perfectly balanced. Other credit in this production must go to Joseph Toronka (Costume Design).
Guildford is crying out for The West End Men to return. The audience went wild at the end – stamping their feet, cheering and demanding several encores. G Live provided the perfect venue for this fabulous night out. I just wish I was seeing the show again in the golden sunshine soaked Channel Islands. Have fun watching this fabulous Concert in Guernsey folks!
The West End Men – Dates
Sir John Loveridge Hall, Guernsey
Saturday 28th July at 7:45 p.m.
Sunday 29th July at 7:45 p.m.
Please click on The West End Men website for tickets and further details: http://www.thewestendmen.com/
More Concerts to be announced soon…