Review Round-up: Mead leads West End Men to Vaudeville
The West End Men is a concert starring Lee Mead, Glenn Carter, Matt Willis, David Thaxton and Stephen Rahman Hughes, with special guest Kerry Ellis, and runs at the Vaudeville Theatre
…Lee Mead singing a Coldplay cover is never going to be to everyone's taste. However, for many musical theatre fans this concert show will represent the ideal smorgasbord… looking beyond this early misstep there are some real treats for the modern musical theatre connoisseur… It's definitely a show of two halves; the first is sorely lacking in decent banter (a script writer wouldn't go amiss) and is musically thin compared to the second… But all told this is an enjoyable evening of unashamedly schmaltzy fun and the five-strong band, situated around Kate Unwin's neatly layered, almost Brechtian set, provide excellent accompaniment - particularly MD/pianist Will Stuart, who has artfully co-arranged the songs with David White.
…It's not exactly a big-budget show. There are only five musicians, though they are talented and work like fury under pianist and musical director Will Stuart. Meanwhile, the shabby chic design doesn't run to much more than red velvet curtains and a number of scruffy rostra, with the stage stripped to its bare, peeling back wall… The two best singers are Glenn Carter and David Thaxton... Nevertheless the show, drably directed and choreographed by Mitch Sebastian, badly needs some flashes of wit and a lighter touch. The stilted joshing between the men becomes tiresome… For this reviewer at least, it was lovely when the music stopped. There's only so much ersatz emotion and cheesy grins a man can take.
… Backed by a stylish five-piece band it's silly but mildly enjoyable stuff, with a pleasing lack of the insincere between-songs banter that this sort of show tends to generate. There is, however, a less pleasing lack of securely-hit top notes. Although Mead is the nominal star turn, he's upstaged by Willis's cheeky-chappy persona and Thaxton's more impressive voice. The first half of director/choreographer Mitch Sebastian's production is all Stygian gloom and moody solo turns. In the more rock gig-esque second half, the four tend to bounce around in a line front-stage like a game, if ageing, boy band… Time passes, no one gets hurt, but it's hard to see what the overall point is. "It's like they all want new agents," said the critic next to me wryly.
Or should that be The West End Boys? Perhaps I'm getting old, but this amiable but underpowered compendium of musical theatre and pop hits often feels like a dry run for some music mogul's next attempt to separate teenage girls from their pocket money. David Thaxton, Glenn Carter, Lee Mead and the former Busted member Matt Willis are all decent singers but charisma is not their strongest suit. Nor is Mitch Sebastian's production enhanced by the stilted patter and a stripped-down set, which wants to be gritty and streetwise and ends up merely looking cheap. Will Stuart's versatile young band, positioned on stage, negotiates tasteful arrangements that flow all the way from West Side Story to Cats and Les Mis…
…bringing the West End Men to the West End itself is like bringing coals to Newcastle. We've got plenty of them here already… So this formulaic West End boy band show is caught in the glare of someone else's spotlight and immediately rendered into a slightly pointless evening of show tunes and star turns. There's hardly a single surprise in it, apart from a bizarre second act musical mash up medley of "Edelweiss", "Ol' Man River", "Send in the Clowns" and "On the Street Where You Live", that tests the harmonic strengths of singing them all simultaneously, and fails... there's something over-generic in the way they've been assembled and presented here that fails to let enough of their individuality shine...
Come on our hosted Whatsonstage.com Outing on 17 June 2013 and get your top-price ticket, a FREE programme and access to a post-show Q&A with the cast all for £30.00! Click here for details