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THE WESTENDERS – with guest-star Tracie Bennett - Princess Theatre, Torquay

Published by: Cameron Lowe on 11th Apr 2014 | View all blogs by Cameron Lowe

By Leonie Wilde.                                                                               April 9th.

 

According to the programme the basic cast of this show have, between them, appeared in 25 major musicals, and formed their original six-singer group whilst all performing in LES MISERABLES in the West End.  Their voices are solidly well-trained and varied, combining well for the largely ensemble presentation of medleys of songs from musical shows.  A pleasing choice of the romantic, the dramatic and pure fun - ranging from MARY POPPINS to the caucus of Andrew Lloyd Webber shows,  all presented with breakneck speed and vivacious aplomb.


The Westenders

In traditional concert style, movement is basic, relying on ‘positioning’ in lines and smaller groupings, slickly accomplished throughout.  Possibly overall content might have been enhanced with some choreographic ‘hints’ in numbers such as SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS, plus a little less dependence on solid down-lighting and a few more ‘costume suggestions.’  Joseph’s actual Technicolor Dream coat was a welcome addition, as were the colourfully outrageous female costumes in the final section of the show.  As hand-held microphones were a constant, the occasional use of a microphone stand, particularly for solo ballads,  would have freed up both arms for greater expression.

Musical support was superb. A fine 7-piece band was led by Jae Alexander who occasionally left the stand to act as compere, also exhibited panache plus vocal prowess in a spirited portrayal of Monsieur Thenardier. There were some spine-tingling vocal pyrotechnics from the whole cast throughout the show; in particular  the purity of Frances Fry’s soprano voice and the power and acting ability of Stephen Weller.

Tracie BennettAs guest-artiste, Tracie Bennett appears to present a fairly short solo spot, consisting of songs from her multi- award winning performance as Judy Garland in the play END OF THE RAINBOW.  This material, coming from a different era to that of the rest of the show’s content is a complete contrast, so it was a pity that her introduction was perfunctory and there was much ‘page-turning’ as members of the audience attempted to find mention of her in the programme – which doesn’t contain even a ‘slipped’ CV of this artiste who has dozens of Stage/Television/Film appearances to her credit, plus two Olivier Awards, a Tony and other theatrical awards/nominations. Her characterisation of Judy was splendid.  Accurately observed tensile movement and gesture  in the ‘powerhouse’ numbers contrasting perfectly with the emotionally-charged stillness in her delivery of Over The Rainbow.

The Westenders

The final part of the show featured a very strong medley of songs from Les Miserables, bringing a section of the audience to its feet. The rest of the audience then joined  in with hand-clapping, arm-waving participation during the MAMA MIA finale.

In spite of the minor criticisms which I’ve noted here, this was an energetic, entertaining and polished production which sent the audience out of the theatre in an obviously happy mood.


Tour details on THE WESTENDERS website.

Comments

1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 3 years ago
    Thanks, Leonie. Sounds like a great night out!
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