“Here’s to the girls who play smart”
There doesn’t seem to be a Sunday night that passes without some concert or another featuring a host of West End stars celebrating a composer or honouring a good cause and this weekend was no exception. West End Recast saw performers taking the chance to embrace roles that they would normally not be cast for, crossing gender and colour lines for a hugely entertaining couple of hours and some brilliant singing. The evening saw an interesting diversity of interpretations of the brief but predominantly, the feel was that it wasn’t so radical an approach – good songs are good songs no matter who sings them.
Some performers went for straight-forward renditions (Daniel Boys’ ‘Send in the Clowns’, Katie Rowley-Jones’ impassioned Rent double header), several of the boys opted for costumey props with mixed results (Boys teaming up with Leon Lopez for a lovely low-key version of ‘For Good’ complete with tiara and green facepaint, Simon Bailey’s Ariel wig not proving as much as an obstacle to ‘Part Of Your World’ as his simpering delivery which flew in the face of the musical integrity pretty much everywhere else). But I have to say I preferred the moments that felt genuinely subversive with their gender-flips and the performances that exploded off the stage (or both at the same time).
Fresh from The Light Princess, the Laura Pitt-Pulford loaded ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ with a marvellously slinky sexiness that powered gloriously across the stage; Martin Callaghan’s ‘Dance Ten Looks Three’ sparkled with effervescent energy and a sly wink; and Tracie Bennett near blew the roof off the Duke of York’s with a scorching ‘Ol’ Man River’, a truly spectacular moment worth the entrance fee alone. And with others, there was the suggestion that workable productions could actually follow on – Cynthia Erivo utterly convincing whilst giving her best Fanny Brice and Jon Robyns making a case for Dreamboys with a rousing ‘(And I Am Telling You) I’m Not Going’.
And I’ve not even mentioned Emma Williams’ Geordie-tastic ‘Electricity’, Nick Holder’s ‘Defying Gravity’, Frances Ruffelle’s excellent Cabaret medley, it really was that kind of evening, stuffed full of endless treats. Kudos to director Adam Lenson, musical director Daniel A Weiss and producer Amanda Holland for putting together a truly special event. My only real complaint is that we only got a snippet of ‘When I Grow Up’ at the end, the thought of Erivo and Williams sharing the role of Matilda simply delicious.
Emma Williams – Electricity
Jon Robyns – I Cain’t Say No
Leon Lopez – Home
Katie Rowley-Jones – I’ll Cover You / One Song Glory
Gareth Snook – Cabaret
Rebecca Brewer – Sweet Transvestite
Simon Bailey – Make Them Hear You
Daniel Boys – Send In The Clowns
Martin Callaghan – Dance Ten Looks Three
Rebecca Brewer & Laura Pitt-Pulford – Falling Slowly
Nick Holder – Defying Gravity