Showbiz Christchurch left audiences spellbound with their recent production of the popular musical Wicked. In fact, Showbiz have been raising their own bar so high, consistently producing world class productions of smash hit musicals, that the height of that success is dizzying!
Broadway Hitmen is yet another triumph for Showbiz Christchurch. This concert of much loved hits, from musical theatre long skirts for men 2018 heavy weights, Cole Porter and Andrew Lloyd Webber, reaches all the right notes.
This musical celebration of two iconic, male composers (the hitmen), is as much a celebration of the overwhelming abundance of immensely gifted performers, and musicians that Christchurch has to offer.
For a relatively small city, Christchurch has a thriving musical theatre scene. This was made abundantly clear, as the opening night audience delighted in a concert that truly showcased some outstanding local talent.
Broadway Hitmen was, to borrow a phrase from kiwi sporting vernacular, a show of two halves. The first half showcased an array of songs by Cole Porter, a hero of twentieth century song writing. The second half comprised of hits by Andrew Lloyd Webber, a man whose name is synonymous with popular musical theatre.
For me, this format of separating these two very different composers made the concert feel like two different shows, separated by an interval. This made for an interesting theatre experience. The first act felt like gently lifting the lid of a well loved, tin of liquorice allsorts. The second half felt like ripping the top off a box of Cadbury Favourites, and pouring the contents out to devour, with your friends!
The first act opened with the rare and harmonious treat of seeing a full orchestra playing on stage. The orchestra, usually tucked away in the pit in stage musicals, don’t just accompany the singers, they shine as artists, clearly deserving of their centrestage status. It is glorious to have the musicians’ accomplished craft seen on stage and celebrated, under the masterful conducting of Musical Director Ravil Atlas.
This awakening instrumental number was followed by the introduction of the large onstage chorus and soloists, during Cole Porter’s highly appropriate, “Another skirts Op’ning Another Show”. This number, along with much of the first act, was injected with Staging Director Nickie Wellbourn’s quirky and animated style of direction. Wellbourn elicits audience giggles by providing deft comedic touches at perfectly chosen moments. This was clearly evident in Porter’s witty word play in the beloved classic, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”.
From the outset, the rousing, full bodied chorus is a delight to listen to. Together they achieve the most magnificent sound and each member of that large ensemble deserves individual recognition.
The stage setting and lighting are simple, classic and effective, with a nod to the 1930s. The star studded backdrop and black catwalks serve as an unobtrusive canvas for the rich and diverse colour palette the soloists bring to the stage.
There are 18 featured soloists in this concert and all of them do an outstanding job of honouring the works of these two composers. Each soloist brings something unique to the table, adding to the diverse flavours in this box of musical goodies.
The first act had a few stand out moments for me. “So In Love” from Kiss Me Kate was one, performed tenderly by songbird Jaqueline Doherty, who on stage is the personification of vintage glamour. In Act Two Jaqueline also managed to capture the vulnerability and fragility perfectly, singing Lloyd Webber’s Memory from the Musical Cats. This young talent is one to watch and I’m excited to see what she will delight Christchurch audiences with in the future.
Act Two exceeded all of my wildest expectations. It felt like Act One had been revving the engine and Act two took the brakes off and went for it. Fuelled by a combination of slick direction and pure talent, the cast powered through an intoxicating selection of spine tingling numbers. The driving energy of Act Two had the audience on the edge of their seats.
The audience’s rapt attention was frequently evident in their appreciative applause (culminating in a rousing standing ovation at the end of the show), but there were also glorious moments of quiet contemplation. You could have heard a pin drop in the heavenly “Pie Jesu” when Amanda Atlas and angelic boy soprano Oscar Stove joined forces.
Act Two offered stellar performance after stellar performance, every soloist making the Lloyd Webber songs their own. But for me, two performers were in a league of their own. Amanda Atlas brought the house down, singing “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard. The best way to describe the brilliance of this performance would be to say that she sang and acted that song like it was the last time she was ever going to take the stage. Nothing was left in the wings, her soul was laid bare, and her vocal mastery and embodiment of the character was out of this world.
Secondly, Nic Kyle’s performance of “Gethsemane” from Jesus Christ Super Star, was worth the price of the ticket alone. To understand the true power, and finely tuned craft of Nic’s voice, you have to experience it for yourself, and I highly recommend that you do!
Broadway Hitmen is the ultimate opportunity to see world class talent, right here, on your doorstep. Like a box of Cadbury Favourites, there is something for everyone. But you better be quick, before they’re all gone!
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