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Momentous Musicals – New Wimbledon Theatre, London

Director: John Garfield-Roberts

Reviewer: Jonathan Grant

[rating:4.5]

A full house at Wimbledon lent an air of great expectation to this inaugural show of musical theatre classics from innovative producers, Speckulation Entertainment. With an eye to ticket sales as well as production values, Gareth Gates topped the bill supported by leading West End talent.

Rachael Wooding opened, appropriately with One Night Only from Dreamgirls. With legs that went on forever, matched by cascading blonde locks, she looked as good as she sounded and set the tone and the standard for the programme to follow.

G4’s Jonathan Ansell and Emma Williams ( has there ever been a more scrumptious truly ?) duetted All I Ask Of You from Phantom. Interestingly, if the show had one slightly weak link it was Ansell, who when performing with his peers lacked a lustre. This song too, did not showcase Williams at her best and is one of the very few numbers that needs attention before the evening is repeated.

Daniel Boys came on to own the stage with Maria, from West Side Story. Boys has a youthful vivacity, an electricity in his appearance and a sublime voice to match his attributes. Each time he took the stage, his confidence and ability simply shone.

Gates debuted as fourth on the bill with one of his signature pieces, Close Every Door from Joseph. To say the audience was partisan would be an understatement as the man could do no wrong, however he sung delightfully with magnificent presence and charisma. With one exception, all of Gates’ songs were performed solo, without backing singers or dancers. This may well have been due to the artist’s hectic schedule ( he is currently appearing in Legally Blonde on tour), but it served to accentuate an air of superiority to the star that suggested a hint of perhaps unintended aloofness and a lack of teamwork among the company.

In Mein Herr, from Cabaret, Miss Williams was as sultry and seductive a Sally Bowles as could be wished for while the musical arrangement of the song was a refreshing variation on the traditional. The sleazily choregoraphed Fosse style routine that accompanied her was similarly first-rate, and the song was one of the evenings 5 star moments.

The second act saw Boys impress with Sondheim’s Being Alive, and as a delightful Rusty in the Starlight Sequence from Starlight Express. The disappointing feature of this song was Ansell as the Poppa character. The rôle demands a bass baritone for the magic to work between the two steam engines, lacking in this performance.

The evenings biggest numbers served as a crescendo to the shows finale. With Why God Why? from Miss Saigon, Gates truly earned his star billing. Ansell then performed a Gethsemane that was outstanding, receiving a modest standing ovation for his turn. Whether this adulation was due to Lloyd Webber’s Superstar currently on TV screens, who knows? But the singer gave his all to the performance, that was breathtaking to witness.

With No One But You from We Will Rock You, Rachael Wooding took on a massively moving song nailing it with poise and spine-tingling power, before duetting touchingly with Gates in Schwartz’s For Good from Wicked, even if that particular song is becoming a little familiar on the ear.

The creative team assembled under the talented Garfield-Roberts were faultless. George Dyer’s musical direction was lively and imaginative, Racky Plews’ choreography was as innovative and expertly drilled into the youthful ensemble and credit to Alan Wareham’s sound design, crystal clear in the rear stalls.

The show deserves to tour, see it if you get an opportunity.

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7 comments

  1. Avatar

    I was at this show last night and it was a tremendous evening with top class performances from everyone but for me, Jonathan Ansell stole the show with Gethsemane – a perfect rendition oozing with feeling. Puts a few of the contestants left in Superstar into insignificance. Andrew Lloyd Webber & Co should take note!

  2. Avatar

    I’m 17 years of age and loved the show!! went mainly to see Gareth gates but all performances were as amazing as each other!! the band were truely amazing aswell!!! without them the show wouldnt of been half as good!!!!!!
    waiting outside afterwards got the chance to met Jonathan and Daniel; but Gareth got pulled back in :(

  3. Avatar

    I agree with most of the above although I think the problem with the love duet from Phantom was not the artists per se more it is a highly charged song and performing it second after the fast and fabulous One Night Only just didnt work it was like a sudden emergency stop suspect they weren’t able to practice it that much?!

    But my problem with the evening lots of fabulous performances particularly Ansell’s Gethsemane but the whole was not greater than the sum of the parts it needed some more glue and at the very least some links between set pieces.

  4. Avatar

    Also went mainly to see Gareth but loved the whole show, although Gareth excelled for me with his beautiful singing voice.Only one critism to make and that was, it didn’t go on as long as expected and didn’t even last two hours. If this show is repeated they need to do more songs and some dialogue would have been nice.

  5. Avatar

    I was at the show last night and loved the whole show Gareth is truly an amazing artiste. I think that the show needed to be longer with more dialogue to keep the audience informed. I would love to see the show again.

  6. Avatar

    I was at this show last night, I went to see Gareth and was not disappointed. I didn’t expect him to sing Unchained Melody, but when he did, like the rest of the audience, I was in raptures. Over the past 10 years his voice has matured so much, but still retained it’s pureness and clarity, and as with everything he sings, Gareth puts his soul into it.

    His rendition of Why God Why was mind blowing, a real show stopper, and when he came on, his experience as a singer was clear to see.

    My only complaint was there was no introduction, no dialogue, and it wasn’t long enough. You can’t have too much of a good thing!

  7. Avatar

    Went to see the show, I thought it was amazing. The show was put together at short notice yet John Garfield Roberts and his team did an amazing job and gave us a show that should tour. The choreograhy was fantastic and I thought the dancers did their choreographer proud, particularly in Mein Herr. Well done to all, Rachel, Danny, Johnathan, Emma and Gareth gave the show what true theatre goers love. Great songs and performances that were out of this world. Thanks for a great evening it was worth the journey from Manchester.