JD: Now a permanent fixture in London's summer calendar, West End Live is a fantastic way to reach out to the theatre-going community. My third visit to Trafalgar Square to sample the best of what the West End had to offer certainly did not leave me disappointed. And the best part? It's completely free!
Attending on the Saturday, this allowed me to experience the full range of headline acts and musicals planned for the weekend. Old favourites such as Les Misérables, Jersey Boys, We Will Rock You and Thriller! proved to be the pick of the bunch. All gave consummately professional performances that were definitely the most appreciated by the 10,000-strong crowd. Oliver Tompsett in particular ensured Nelson was ‘rocking' on his Column as the troop of support clapped and stomped along to Queen's loudest and best hits (you know the ones). These productions should also be commended for allowing understudies such as Chris Gardner and Emma Hatton to showcase their talents in full view of the public.
Much interest was also focused upon the West End Live debutants, who can use the weekend as a fantastic shop window for what their shows have to offer. Let It Be opened proceedings with a beautiful live rendition of many Beatles tracks that set the tone for what was to come. It had a real authentic feel to it and did Lennon, McCartney and Harrison very proud indeed.
Once: A New Musical followed straight after and quickly became one of my favourite acts of the day. Their display of live – and very catchy – instrumentation next to the energetic staging arrangements ensured Once's place on my personal ‘must see' list for 2013. Declan Bennett's performance of "Say It To Me Now" proved that simplicity is often best: just a man and his guitar holding Trafalgar Square captive with effortless charisma and ability.
Other performances of intrigue came from The Color Purple, soon to hit the Menier Chocolate Factory in July and Sir Tim Rice's self-introduced From Here to Eternity that performed a world-exclusive acoustic number through star Robert Lonsdale. It had a distinct folk-western feel to it that will be sure to delight audiences at the Shaftesbury Theatre come late September.
Every single production that put on a display had gone the extra mile in order to ensure they would live long in the memory of every audience member. There is not room to mention each remaining set but of note were the ever-‘popular' Wicked, Billy Elliot, Matilda and other West End Live newcomers The Bodyguard featuring the irrepressible Heather Headley. All were great adverts for their respective causes.
The day came to a close after an en masse dance and song number from A Chorus Line and a raucous but compelling set from the insanely talented Stomp cast. Finally, Rock of Ages provided those who had stayed until the last with a chance to participate in a World Record attempt for the largest air guitar ensemble – which was achieved! – during their performance of show-stopper "Here I Go Again".
It brought to a close a near-flawless day of performances to a close (bar the odd few sound problems, which were swiftly resolved!). All performers and organises dealt admirably with the issues that performing outdoors provides and they should be commended for their efforts. A final well done should go to Westminster City Council and the West End Live team. Here's to next year then!
- Jasper Dunning (@jasperdunning94)