Magic at the Musicals 2022
On the day Dear Evan Hansen played its final Broadway performance, Sam Tutty, who still (for a few more weeks until the show plays its final London performance) plays the title character, took to the Royal Albert Hall stage to belt out ‘Waving Through A Window’. No programmes were available to purchase for ‘Magic at the Musicals 2022’, and I’m not even going to attempt to try to recall absolutely everybody and every song that formed part of this whirlwind tour of miscellaneous musicals.
I’d neglected to keep an eye out for tickets, so ended up booking a ‘Fine Dining package’, which was indulgent, but nonetheless pleasurable. I had a three-course meal before the show, and as it was one of those posh and pretentious places where the portions were so small it’s as if one is supposed to have eaten beforehand anyway, I felt sufficiently fed and watered (and wined, and champagned) without struggling in the slightest to stay awake. Contrast that with the time I went to the now defunct Garfunkel’s restaurant in Northumberland Avenue and had spaghetti and meatballs before going to a West End show. I never made that mistake again.
As there was a National Moment of Reflection called for 8pm on the evening of the performance, this was duly accommodated – this was, after all, the Royal Albert Hall. The change of monarch also led the show’s producers to invite the audience to sing the National Anthem at the close of the performance, although it probably would have been better to have done it at 8:01pm. As it was, co-host Jason Manford took centre stage and sang ‘Anthem’ from Chess, which was a curious choice to follow a moment to honour Queen Elizabeth II, given it’s a number performed by a character in that show referred to only as The Russian. The current political climate being what it is, they’d frankly have been better off going with ‘You’ll Be Back’ from Hamilton. At least it’s a proclamation from the King, albeit a tongue-in-cheek one.
Come to think of it, there are all sorts of showtunes that could have been sung at that point – ‘No One is Alone’ from Into The Woods, or ‘How Glory Goes’ from Floyd Collins. ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ from The Phantom of the Opera might have been a bit much. Speaking of Phantom, the audience was treated to Lucy St Louis and James Gant as Christine and the Phantom respectively, plus the Albert Hall’s famed pipe organ, singing the title track from the show, flanked by students from the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.
This year was the slickest I’ve ever seen Magic at the Musicals done – Manford and co-host Ruthie Henshall kept a tight ship, with only the briefest of off-script quips and remarks (all in good taste). It had competition this year, mind you – with some industry acquaintances at ‘The Stage Debut Awards’ and others, together with plenty of punters, seeing John Owen-Jones in concert with four other actors who have also played the title role in Phantom. ‘JOJ’, as he is known, booked Her Majesty’s Theatre (which will revert to being called His Majesty’s Theatre in due course, as the land on which the theatre sits belongs to the Crown Estate) for his London gig, which has, of course, been the host theatre of The Phantom of the Opera musical since October 1986.
There were tributes, too, to Dame Olivia Newton-John and to Meat Loaf, in the form of ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ from Grease and ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me Now’ from Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell the Musical, and it was left to the feelgood shows Mamma Mia! and Jersey Boys to close out the first and second halves respectively. I thought Shaq Taylor as ‘the Beast’ in Beauty and the Beast (miscast in the sense that he doesn’t look like a beast by any stretch of the imagination, so hats off to the makeup artists on that production) had an extraordinary voice, as did Tom Francis, as Romeo from & Juliet.
Mazz Murray is Mazz Murray is Mazz Murray.
Henshall did well, singing the title song from Cabaret (could they really not get anyone in from that production?), and the Mountview students were suitably enthusiastic in their own moment in the limelight, singing Hairspray’s ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’. Aisha Jawando brought the house down by way of a medley of Tina Turner songs, and Moulin Rouge The Musical went for ‘Your Song’, which carried on being ‘Your Song’ from beginning to end instead of morphing into something else, and then something else, and then something else…
If anything, it’s a decent way to sample shows with a view to deciding what to see in full, and for people like me who focus on seeing new productions, it’s a useful reminder there are long-running shows still out there that are just as enjoyable now as they were years (or even decades) ago.