The world of musical theatre may often be explored through concerts, but the history of British musicals is one that is seldom touched upon. The void has been filled with The Great British Musicals, performed by the newly-formed Novello Singers and artistic director Ross Leadbeater.
Songs by Britain’s most iconic composers are revived, from Ivor Novello, Noel Coward and Lionel Bart to Gilbert and Sullivan. The Novello Singers are a talented choir and Nicholas Parsons’ narration injects the concert with anecdotes, however many of the songs lack context without knowledge of the original musical production.
West End favourites Louise Dearman and Jon Robyns guest star in the second act and really bring the concert to life as we reach the more contemporary composers. Robyns’ rendition of Pure Imagination is stunning and Dearman shows off some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest music.
The Novello Singers all have strong vocals, but their inexperience is particularly highlighted by the presence of Robyns and Dearman. The choir’s enthusiasm shines through but the connection to the audience is weakened by their failure to hold eye contact with you. It feels as if they have been told to ensure to change their focus often to include more audience members, however the connection is never made as their eyes flick around the audience too quickly. It cannot be forgotten, however, that this is their first show as a group and hopefully their ability to hold an audience will grow as they become more experienced in concert singing.
The show celebrates British composers yet more contemporary musicals seem to have been excluded. The Time Warp and an Andrew Lloyd Webber medley featuring Evita, Tell Me On A Sunday and Cats are the most recent songs to be showcased, which is a shame as Billy Elliot‘s Electricity would fit well within the show, as would More Than America from Tim Rice’s recent show From Here to Eternity. With a talented group at the forefront of the production, it would be interesting to see the Great British Musicals develop and expand.