TV Review: My Favorite Things: The Rodgers & Hammerstein 80th Anniversary Concert 

My Favorite Things: The Rodgers & Hammerstein 80th Anniversary Concert features an impressive array of talent but somehow just misses the spot for me

“Gayer than laughter are you”

Once upon a time, the notion of all-star concerts celebrating the work of musical theatre’s finest writers was like manna from heaven but these days, my jaded soul can take ’em or leave ’em. Having been blessed with the opportunity to see so many of the featured shows as written, it ends up being a little more difficult to be as satisfied with the pick’n’mix nature of a tribute show, no matter how starry the guestlist (indeed the televised Sondheim’s Old Friends almost put me off seeing the live show altogether).

My Favorite Things: The Rodgers & Hammerstein 80th Anniversary Concert certainly manages to impress in that regard, having attracted luminaries like Audra McDonald, Patrick Wilson, Daniel Dae Kim and Aaron Tveit across the Atlantic. They sit alongside talent we’re more accustomed to seeing in the UK, Julian Ovenden and Maria Friedman, Lucy St Louis and Jordan Shaw, Marisha Wallace and Joanna Ampil, there’s no knocking the calibre of performer here.

It’s just more that the quick succession of abridged performances from so large a company offers little chance to really luxuriate in the splendour on offer. Opening so strongly with Wilson’s creamily smooth ‘Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin” and McDonald’s delightful skip through ‘My Favourite Things’, it’s a touch frustrating that they’re not featured more heavily thereafter. You don’t get to celebrate 80th anniversaries that often so why would you not make the most of your top-billed talent?

Additionally, the programming at these types of shows rarely takes the opportunity to be adventurous in matching star to unexpected choices of material which always feels like a missed opportunity (weirdly, Michael Ball seems to be the exception here, getting to sing ‘Could I Leave You’ for Old Friends and delivering a glib take on ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ here which feels criminal given the amount of soprano talent on hand).

Writing legit soprano roles as they did so well, the concert does offer a great showcase for some excellent voices. Ampil, St Louis and Lily Kerhoas revel in the opportunity to stretch out through their whole register in a way that few contemporary composers offer these days. Dae Kim and Friedman recapture their gorgeous chemistry in a whirling ‘Shall We Dance’ and Julian Ovenden brings a magisterial intensity to ‘This Nearly Was Mine’. The high points are certainly there, I just end up wanting more of what works best.

Recorded in December 2023 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane – the same venue that premièred the original West End productions of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific and The King and I – the historical resonances are present and correct throughout and the whole event is a fitting tribute to this superlative duo (plus Rita Moreno seems a real hoot). But when can we get Audra McDonald in a whole-ass production of something here again please? And Daniel Dae Kim for that matter.

Photos: Tristram Kenton

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