This weekend saw the ninth installment of West End Live – a free two day event held in Trafalgar Square which showcases the best that London’s West End has to offer. The event, a joint venture between Westminster City Council and the Society of London Theatre, celebrates the quality and diversity that is on offer on any given night in London’s theatre district.
Numerous new West End productions were given the opportunity to show why audiences should come and see their shows over the weekend including ‘The Bodyguard’. Based on the film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, the production is gearing up for a change of casting so fans were treated to one of the final promotional performances before singer Beverley Knight takes on the lead role in September. Casts from ‘Once: The Musical’, ‘A Chorus Line’ and ‘Let It Be’ also took the stage with the latter leading the crowd in a ‘Let It Be’ singalong.
It wasn’t just new shows out to impress at West End Live, some of theatrelands longest running shows were also on the line-up and proved why they have continued to bring in audiences night after night. ‘Rock Of Ages’, ‘The Lion King’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ all wowed the crowd with some of their showstoppers and Harrison Dowzell performing as Billy Elliot received one of the biggest cheers of the day for his spectacular rendition of ‘Electricity’.
Les Miserables fans were given the chance to check out some of the newer cast members including Carrie Fletcher as Eponine who gave a belting performance of ‘On My Own’. The young stars of ‘Matilda’ were out in force to show why the production has won a record-breaking seven Olivers here in the UK and had a hugely successful transfer to Broadway where it won four Tonys last month.
There were also performances from shows that are yet to open. ‘From Here to Eternity’ opens at The Shaftesbury Theatre in October and fans were given a glimpse of what to expect from Tim Rice’s latest project. The show, adapted from James Jones’ 1951 novel, is set on an Hawaiian island during Pearl Habour and follows several members of a military company stationed on the island.
Also in a preview performance was The Sound of Music which is being revived for the summer at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre from July 25th. The classic tale of love and freedom will be helmed by Charlotte Wakefield as Maria. Wakefield made her debut in the Oliver nominated ‘Spring Awakening’ before playing Sophie in ‘Mamma Mia!’ both on international tour and in the West End and if this preview is anything to go on looks a great choice to play the role.
Disappointingly there was no performance from musical juggernaut ‘The Book Of Mormon’ although considering the family friendly tone of the event this was perhaps not unexpected. Also absent was ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ – currently in previews just around the corner at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and gearing up for it’s opening night on Tuesday. Let’s hope that’s on the bill for next year as this event looks set to continue to grow in popularity and highlight the great shows that London’s West End has on offer.