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Let's hear it for West End Live

WhatsOnStage 'tweet team' members Tal Fox and Jasper Dunning sing the praises of West End Live, which took over Trafalgar Square this weekend (22 and 23 June 2013)

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TF: This is the fifth year I've been coming along to West End Live and the excitement leading up to the event never wavers. If you have ever been you will know what I'm talking about, but if you haven't allow me to paint you a small picture that should hopefully convince you that this is where you want to be next year...

Standing in the queue that surrounds Trafalgar Square a sea of show t-shirts sail past - Wicked, Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages (to name a few I spotted) - the crowd excitedly compares which acts they have come to see that day. Then the gates open…

The weekend is full of the best of what the West End has to offer, bringing together countless musical favourites for the crowd to enjoy and introducing new shows and the stars of tomorrow.

The cast of Rock of Ages performs at West End Live 2013

As a massive musical theatre fan there is nothing more thrilling than having all of your favourite shows come together: I could give you a detailed description of each one but instead I'll pinpoint a few of my personal highlights from the weekend.

Firstly, I have to say whoever said you should never work with children clearly has never seen shows like Billy Elliot and Matilda, or even Thriller Live!. All three performed on both days and the children were absolutely sensational. I don't think I will ever get over how someone so small can have so much talent!

Another of my West End Live favourites are the West End Kids and Sylvia Young Theatre School because it's so important to encourage children to be involved in the arts. In a time where cuts are affecting this incredible industry these talented kids prove just why the arts are so important.

Considering all that the stars give to their audiences to provide memorable moments for a long time to come, it only seems right that West End Live gives them something too. Oliver Tompsett, Stuart Matthew Price were among many stars given the opportunity to showcase themselves as soloists.

It's also a great family day out because while you are enjoying the sensational showstoppers, you also have the opportunity to wander around the stalls that display some of London's greatest attractions, such as The London Film Museum, The Science Museum and Ripley's Believe it or Not.

Of course, none of this would be possible without Councillor Robert Davis, the creator of this magnificent event, so full credits to him and his team. Next year will mark the West End Live tenth anniversary, and I hope it will continue to run for decades to come.

- Tal Fox (@_TalFox_)


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)


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