West End Men
First things first, this show should carry a health warning: Those intolerant to musical cheese (such as my companion last night) will find it a struggle - Lee Mead (pictured above) 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; a solid blend of show tunes and contemporary pop, and even a drizzle of the perennially popular Wicked thanks to a second half appearance by Kerry Ellis.
I mention Sondheim but in truth the American iconoclast would likely find his use here rather odd, as his soaring ballad "Being Alive" is blended with "Pure Imagination" from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Lloyd Webber's "Music of the Night" and "Love Changes Everything".
That musical mash-up, which opens the show, is not something I ever thought I'd hear and to be honest I rather wish I hadn't. However, looking beyond this early misstep there are some real treats for the modern musical theatre connoisseur. Glenn Carter singing "Gethsemane" nearly 20 years after playing Jesus in London and New York; Lee Mead (who was clearly struggling with a throat problem last night) reprising "Close Every Door" a few years after singing it at the neighbouring Adelphi; and a playful West Side Story medley that gets Act Two off to a strong start.
The foursome is completed by Olivier Award-winner David Thaxton and Busted-cum-West End star Matt Willis, the former providing vital vocal depth and the latter proving a snake-hipped crowd pleaser, even throwing in a rendition of Busted earworm "Year 3000".
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, which boasts not just Ellis in fine voice but also a choir to close the show with a Les Mis medley and one of the better "Bohemian Rhapsody" renditions I've heard.
Indeed, such was the contrast between the two acts last night it was akin to watching a football team following a half-time 'hairdryer' from the manager (or, more likely in this case, director Mitch Sebastian).
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.
- by Theo Bosanquet
West End Men continues at the Vaudeville until 22 June 2013. 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