Monday, August 27, 2012

The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber: My Review

June 25, 2011

When ads for this show called "The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber" started to come out very early this year, I felt sure I wanted to watch this, even without knowing who would be singing. ALW's compositions are a staple of modern musical theater, which I enjoy listening to. There would only be 13 shows starting June 24 at the CCP Main Theater, and I bought tickets for the first weekend (last night June 26).  We bought the tickets early in March I think, so we were able to get very nice Orchestra Center seats.  (There were offers for cheaper tickets weeks before the show, but I do not know if these offers could still be availed of at present.) Advanced press releases reveal that the singers would be musical theater performers from Australia.

The show began with some lines from "Love Changes Everything" (Aspects of Love), and from there the hits kept on coming. The first big set of songs was from Evita (1976).  We heard "On This Night of a Thousand Stars," "And The Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)" and "High Flying Adored" from the male singers, Shaun Rennie, Blake Bowden and Michael Cormick, respectively.  Of course, this segment was capped by "Don't Cry for Me Argentina".  This, as well as the other big diva songs in the show, was very dramatically sung by Ms. Delia Hannah.  

The next big set was from ALW's newest output Love Never Dies (2010).  The beautiful title song was rendered by Ms. Trisha Crowe, who has this strong yet sublime soprano voice.  Bowden then followed very strongly with my personal favorite song from that show, "Till I Hear You Sing." The concluding set of the first act from Cats (1981) was quite underwhelming (as expected), except for "Memory" (by Ms. Hannah).  In between these sets, Ms. Alinta Chizdy charmingly sang "Take That Look Off Your Face" (Tell Me On a Sunday) and "I Don't Know How to Love Him".  Andrew Conaghan powerfully sang "All I Ask of You" (duet with Ms. Crowe) and "Light at the End of the Tunnel" (Starlight Express).

After the 20 minute intermission,Rennie opened the second half with an electrifying rendition of the Judas Iscariot rock aria
"Heaven on their Mind" from Jesus Christ Superstar (1970).  We also get to hear songs from lesser known ALW shows like The Woman in White (2004) and Whistle Down the Wind (1996) ("No Matter What" and the title song by Kristen Hobb). Ms. Hobb and Ms. Crowe had a beautiful subtle duet on "Pie Jesu" (Requiem). Ms. Hannah gets to sing two more diva songs in this set "Tell Me on a Sunday" and "With One Look" (Sunset Boulevard). Her very dramatic style of singing really fits these songs.  

The highlight of all these highlights was the fantastic and showstopping performance of the title song from the eternal Phantom of the Opera (1986). The soprano of Ms. Crowe was perfect as the enchanted Christine.  The vocals of Mr. Cormick was of a totally different timbre and quality as the Phantom compared to the other songs he sang tonight.  It was dangerous and sinister, on a much higher level altogether.  The concluding song for the second act was the energetic "Superstar" led by Rennie and the girls, and later the rest of the 8-man cast.  The dancing lights and screen visuals of this numbers were really stepped up as well for a memorable upbeat conclusion.

The whole cast had come out to take their bows.  The strongest applause were accorded to Mr. Cormick and Ms. Hannah.  But as they were exiting, Rennie suddenly led them back to center stage to sing "Any Dream Will Do" (
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). Finally, the very last song the group sang together was the complete version of  "Love Changes Everything". Then, everyone took their second and final bows, and the concert was over.

Those big, colorful brightly-lit rectangular screens which showed video images as the songs were being sung were a big factor in keeping things interesting and alive.  There were also pictures and videos of ALW himself as he talked about his work and passion which were funny and revelatory.  Not perfect all the way through though.  No "As If We Never Say Goodbye" and "Starlight Express." Shaun Rennie and Blake Bowden can tend to act too awkwardly effeminate for comfort.

Overall, this was a very entertaining night of timeless songs from the theater.  If you like musical theater and ALW, you will surely enjoy this show.  It was certainly very hard to keep from singing along!  Truth to tell, though, I am very sure a local Filipino group of musical theater stars and musicians can stage the same show with similar, if not better, quality.  If ever they do, we will surely watch them as well.

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