Review: West End Musical Drive In, Episode 1

This capture of last summer’s West End Musical Drive In delivers much of the thrill of live performance, with Shan Ako and Layton Williams in particularly fine form

“Honk your horns”

Last summer saw the team behind the West End Musical Brunch pivot within the constrictions of social distancing to create the West End Musical Drive In concert series. And with great consideration for those of us who don’t drive, the shows were filmed and five of them are now being streamed on a weekly basis via Stream.Theatre.

Layton Williams is the headliner for this show and it is is not hard to see why. Supported by an ensemble from the forthcoming tour of Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, he struts with outrageous levels of charisma and fashion-forward thinking through numbers from that show, Kinky Boots, Rent and much more besides.

But running him a close second for star quality is Shan Ako. Whether breaking your heart with Les Misérables‘ ‘On My Own’ or Waitress‘ ‘She Used To Be Mine’, impressing with self-penned tracks like ‘Brave Heart’, or whipping up the party spirit by channelling Tina and Whitney, hers is an enormous talent which should be loudly celebrated.

Maiya Quansah-Breed does well against these powerhouses too, an impassioned take on Hamilton’s ‘Burn’ stands out among her set. And as the compère for the evening, as well as the co-producer of the series, Shanay Holmes delivers an inordinate amount of committed energy, whether nailing the likes of ‘Fabulous Baby’ and ‘This Is Me’ or speaking powerfully on Black Lives Matters.

There’s a real joy in hearing the 100% live vocals, something not always immediately apparent in other streamed content, and there’s something delightfully right about the fact that it pours down on an open air concert in the British summer, not even a pandemic can change that.

West End Musical Drive In is streaming until 21st March – do note each concert plays three nights and is only available to view at the scheduled times and dates.

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