Filmed in Manchester last week, concert extravaganza Big Night of Musicals by the National Lottery really does showcase a large slice of current musical theatre offerings well
From the moment host Jason Manford dons his glittery gold jacket and launches into a Chicago medley via a segue into ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’, it’s clear where we’re sitting with Big Night of Musicals by the National Lottery. And that that is squarely crowd-pleasing glitz and glamour shouldn’t be surprising, given that it is getting the Saturday night primetime treatment on BBC1.
For once though, it is good to see that eyes are on some of the breadth of the West End and the touring circuit. So that means there’s no place for the usually ubitiquous Les Mis, Wicked and Phantom, but rather current shows like Back to the Future (Cedric Neal and cast ripping through the entertaining ‘Gotta Start Somewhere’), The Drifters Girl and Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical getting their moment to shine.
Similarly with current touring shows like Beauty and the Beast, Bat Out of Hell and Waitress, there feels a real point to using a showcase like this as a marketing exercise. If audiences across like what they see – and why wouldn’t they, with the likes of Chelsea Halfpenny’s ‘She Used To Be Mine’ and the lush harmonies of Courtney Stapleton and Shaq Taylor on ‘Beauty and the Beast’ – then a quick Google can get them sorted at a local theatre.
It was particularly gratifying to see fringe theatre represented here too, in the form of the Hope Mill Theatre’s The Wiz, demonstrating just how much more to the British theatre ecology there is than big names and the West End (big up Ameena Hamid). Alongside this, introducing a touch of new musical theatre writing might have been nice as well but you know…we couldn’t not have Andrew Lloyd Webber represented (via School of Rock in this case).
There’s lots more here to enjoy as well, not least Keala Settle giving us a taster of her soon-to-come takeover of the Nurse in & Juliet, and Aisha Jawando and the cast of Tina ripping up the stage for the finale. Lots of fun.