This was my first visit to Cadogan Hall and what a perfectly charming venue it is. Acoustically perfect for an evening such as this, a musical celebration of the hits of Broadway legend Richard Rodgers. With a rousing start of Oklahoma, it sets a scene for an extremely enjoyable evening full of facts and a few surprises along the way.
Accompanied by The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra of which the Conductor Richard Balcombe Musically Directed the evening to perfection, orchestrating some beautiful arrangements within the revue.
We were fortunate to have four fabulous leading West End stars to pay tribute to this genius Broadway legend. Lesley Garrett who provided us with the commentary whilst delivering her usual tour de force performance. Michael Xavier fresh from performing alongside Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard. West End darling Ruthie Henshall, it’s hard to believe she is celebrating 30 years in the industry this year. Finishing up this creme de Le creme of performers is Gary Wilmot whom I recently had the privilege of interviewing and who in my opinion has not received nearly the amount of leading roles as he has deserved over the years.
Taking us chronologically through Richard Rodgers astounding writing career, this evening had the well-known favourites and a few lesser known songs as well. Each of the four principles took the lead and I will list a few of my highlights from the evening. Ably supported by ArtsEd students who had some gorgeous voices amongst them and I’ve no doubt we’ll be seeing more of them in years to come when they enter the industry fully having honed their craft. With Kevan Allen providing choreography to keep it from feeling too static, it made the evening feel smooth and flow well.
Charismatic Michael Xavier oozes leading man quality throughout. Xavier’s voice was gloriously displayed in Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’ (Oklahoma) and If I Loved You (Carousel). His duets with Ruthie Henshall in Falling in Love with Love (The Boys from Syracuse) Something Good (The Sound of Music) were exquisitely performed by both artistes.
Ruthie Henshall delighted us all by singing My Funny Valentine (Babes in Arms and the only song I know to be used in another musical My Pal Joey). Henshall’s second highlight for me was with the ArtsEd girls I’m Going To Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair (South Pacific) which demonstrated her fun and character acting prowess superbly.
Gary Wilmot had the daunting task of the night singing the seven minute long Soliloquy – My Boy Bill (Carousel). This song presents its own challenges not least because of the length but because it plots so many feelings to the audience taking them on a journey. It was no surprise to me, having seen Wilmot perform many times before that he absolutely nailed this performance. Other highlights for me were Eidelwies (Sound Of Music) and The Surrey With The Fringe on Top which showed the richness in Wilmot’s voice.
Lesley Garrett whom I had the pleasure of seeing in Carousel at The Savoy Theatre effortlessly sung June is Bustin Out All Over followed by the now anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone. It was her fascinating commentary that really demonstrated her fun, perfect dictation and delivery of such informative facts, which kept the audience engaged throughout. I looked around the auditorium at one point and it was lovely to witness the enthralled, enthusiast and appreciative audience of Rodgers music and performers alike.
As we sped through Rodgers life we heard that there were some shock changes in leading casts, how South Pacific won ten Tony awards and that Yul Brynner performed in excess of 4000 shows on Broadway in the King and I.
This was an evening of glorious entertainment and to use one of Rodgers title songs it certainly was (It’s) A Grand Night For Singing and the performances definitely made Some Enchanted Evening!