Hayley Dowdell was, as her friends will tell you, a young woman full of love, passion, kindness and energy until, all too soon, her life was ended by a disease which still affects so many, Cystic Fibrosis. Those closest to Hayley started an organisation in her memory called Love Create to raise money for research into the disease and for equipment to install in the Bristol Royal Infirmary unit that treated her and it is to this incredibly worthy cause that the profits from the latest West End Fest concert will go.
The actors’ church in the heart of Covent Garden, is the venue for a night which brings together about 30 amazing stars from the West End stage, some superb talent from a couple of major TV shows and some new and unsigned musicians to perform an evening of such awe inspiring brilliance that my dictionary of superlatives will run out long before I get to the last paragraph!
The show opens with We Will Rock You’s Lauren Varnham taking to the stage to sing “Defying Gravity”, closely followed by her castmate, and co-producer of the event, Sabrina Aloueche who absolutely nails “On My Own” from Les Miserables. They both show the packed house that they are in for a treat from start to finish with Scott Morgan on keyboards, Aaron James Williams and Dominik Told on guitars and Nicky Caulfield on drums also getting an early chance to show just how good they are.
Not to let the ladies have all the limelight, Patrick George has his turn next, and gives everything he has to his performance of “I’m Alive” from Next to Normal and he is followed, by Duncan Heather, last seen rocking out in the fantastic Bohemian Rhapsody, who powers his incredibly passionate way through “Pity the Child” from Chess.
Even more emotion follows when Claire Marie Hall lifts the roof with her version of “I’d Give My Life for You” from Miss Saigon and Jonathan D Ellis brings us back to the superb score of Les Miserables to deliver a faultless performance of “Stars”. In between the West End stars our compere, Chris Cox, keeps things ticking along with some impromptu magic tricks and also introduces singer/songwriters like harpist Jada, and co-producer of the event, Parnell Page.
Act one finishes with Lisa Anne Wood’s performance of “Part of your World” from The Little Mermaid, former Joseph, Andrew Derbyshire’s superb “Listen” from Dreamgirls and Dirk Johnston from ITV’s Superstar, who sets the room on fire with an amazing performance of “Gethsemane”.
Act two opens with the cast of the forthcoming Cockpit Theatre production of Rent showing us exactly why we should be snapping up the tickets for their show and this part of the show also has highlights, not from musicals, that include “Empire State of Mind” by Lucy May Barker, currently in Sweeney Todd, James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something” by MiG Ayesa and David Ribi, last seen in Dreamboats and Petticoats, performing a superb acoustic version of the “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon.
Ribi takes us back, for the last time, to the showtunes and gets the audience up on their feet with a “Runaround Sue” from his, previously mentioned, West End debut musical and the audience stay on their feet for the final star of the event. Superstar’s newly discovered crowd-pleaser, and self confessed cocky and arrogant rocker, Nathan James takes to the stage and, after lulling us into a false sense of security with Maria McKee’s “Show me Heaven”, brings the evening to a massive party style climax with a heart stopping performance of Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.
With the humblest of apologies to all the other, incredibly talented, performers that I couldn't mention is such a small space, this is just the kind of evening that Hayley would have loved and a great fundraiser for the charity created in memory of her. West End Fest will return later this year – be there!