As London began to burn and the world’s finances teetered on a knife-edge, most of the musical theatre community in the West End bundled into Her Majesty’s Theatre. The event was an evening to celebrate and attempt to save Dress Circle, the Monmouth Street ‘Showbiz Shop’ that is a haven for the committed musical-goer.
This place is definitely a gem, and it would be an awful shame to see it go – whether this show has been produced to raise funds or to attract an investor to save the shop is unclear, but the brightest and best of the West End certainly value Dress Circle – a huge spread of top names turned up to perform in its name. Organised in only a few weeks by the hugely dedicated Stewart Matthew Price and James Yeoburn, a night of great variety and talent was the result.
Although the nature of one-off charity performances inevitably produces a patchy result between the extremely well-rehearsed and those who have only managed to drop in for a song and run off, those who shone did so extremely brightly.
It was a joy to see the original cast of the 2007 Donmar production of Parade reunited, recreating the immense atmosphere and power of that autumn at the Warehouse. Unformtuately Lara Pulver was unable to attend, shortening the intended set to only one song – it would have been amazing to see more. Three of the original London Avenue Q cast gave a great rendition of ‘I Wish I Could Go Back to College’, reminding us of the amazing cheek and fun that has made the West End a duller place to be since the show’s closure.
Of the individual performers, Landi Oshinowo (currently ‘Dragon’ in Shrek the Musical) triumphed with her ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’, which continued a wonderful Dreamgirls set after Portia Emare, Emma Lindars & Charlotte Riby’s ‘One Night Only’. Two wonderful songs from a hugely underrated musical performed with panache – fantastic.
Similarly impressive was Tracie Bennett, bringing her manic Judy Garland from End of the Rainbow to Haymarket, leaving none of her explosive energy and complete dedication to the character behind after a summer resting before taking the show on a UK tour.
Possibly the most affecting performance was that of Ellen Greene, the original Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors singing ‘Somewhere That’s Green‘ . As immersed as Bennett was in Garland, these two women made it entirely clear how they have made these roles their own. Greene was clearly affected by the standing ovation that she received – shedding tears in response. Such diamonds of rare performances make these events entirely unmissable.
So, in all a great night that hopefully can be a step towards a continued physical presence of Dress Circle in the West End – I certainly don’t want to be denied my browsing for sheet music for obscure new musicals and esoteric DVDs! Please drop in next time you’re in Seven Dials and tell your friends to do so too – hopefully a suitable long term strategy to ensure the financial viability of the shop can be reached soon so that all of this effort and goodwill has not been in vain.