HEY MR PRODUCER - 8 JUNE 1998

ACT 1

I have now been privileged to witness, IMO, two of the finest London musical concerts this decade. The first being the Les Miserables Tenth Anniversary Concert and the second being Hey Mr Producer, a concert celebrating the work of Cameron Mackintosh over the past 30 years. Hey Mr P was a three hour spectacular covering the majority of his musicals and we were treated to excerpts, fully costumed and performed as in the shows.

The evening contained many highlights, but I must especially mention 'Broadway Baby', 'Duelling Pianos’, ‘Send in the Clowns’ and my favourite section, and seemingly others too as the applause greeted the first rousing notes of 'Look Down', Les Miserables. This section bought the show to an end and for me the 3rd opportunity to hear Philip Quast sing 'Stars' live. I must also mention the first delight of the evening with Julie Andrews ending the My Fair Lady section.

On what occasion could a stage be graced with so many musical stars at one time. The list is endless and it is understood that many halted whatever they were doing at the time to appear at the concert. Also a number of 'stars' made very brief appearances, a true tribute to Cameron.

The best way I can give my review of the show is to follow it as it was performed, selecting highlights and glossing over a couple of bits I was less fond of, I mean what was Marion Montgomery up to !!!!!

To start with the stage was graced with 'that piano' which Cameron had insisted on seeing as an 8 year old. A little 'Cam Mack' came on and with him looking at the piano the overture to 'Cats' began. This was followed by a swarm of children performing a rousing 'Food, Glorious Food'

Followed by the My Fair Lady section. I have never really been a fan of Liz Robertson and she didn't really impress here. Jonathan Pryce did a turn as Professor Higgins, which was 'splendid' and it was so nice to see Donald Sinden on the stage. The section ended as the show does but instead of Liz finishing with 'I washed me face and hands before I come I did' a voice came from the wings instantly recognised by all as Julie Andrews. She received a rapturous reception from the audience.

Next came a medley of several shows kicked off by John Barrowman singing’ 1, 2, 3' from 'The Fix'; it would have been nice to see something else from this show. Then the delight of Ellen Greene recreating Audrey from the 'Little Shop of Horrors', showing that the role is still very much hers. We then got the only disappointing bit if the concert, Day by Day from 'Godspell' and ' I get a kick out of you' from Anything Goes. The former was just staged unexcitedly, although it was good to see Phil Cavill back on the stage, the latter was dreadful, Marion Montgomery was awful.

I've never followed Bernadette Peters but she was truly one of the stars of the evening, showing brilliant comic timing and singing. She started the evening with 'Unexpected Song', I never realised how powerful her voice is. This section was completed with a rousing 'Nicer in Nice', Jimmy Logan and 5 Guys Named Moe.

Adam Searles, still able to play Dodger at 17, introduced us to Oliver along with Russ Abbott giving a taste of what is to come on the tour. Sonia Swaby sang a powerful 'As Long as he Needs Me' confirming herself amongst one of London's upcoming leading ladies.

The treat for me, the new Martin Guerre, a revamped title track with new lyrics giving a totally different meaning to the song than previously. David Campbell sang well, this complicated and very fast piece of music. Also an intro to the new song 'How many tears' sung by Maria Friedman. Even after one listen it struck me as a very moving ballad for Bertrande. David Campbell appeared again alongside Lea Salonga in the Miss Saigon section. It was great to see Lea and Jonathan Pryce reprising their original roles and Jonathan showing why he deserved the accolades with the 'American Dream'. The Act 1 finale was Phantom of the Opera. Lisa Vroman was a superb Christine and Colm Wilkinson made his first appearance of the night as the Phantom. As with a lot of the sections dialogue between songs was included. Phantom ended the act as it does in the show, no falling chandeliers though !! Colm crying in agony from the balcony as he watched Christine leave. So Act 1 came to a close leaving us all a little shell-shocked but eager to see what gems Act 2 would bring and it certainly did deliver.

ACT 2

For me act 2 was my preferred half bringing together my favourite show of all time, Les Miz, my favourite old show, Carousel and one of my favourite performers, Philip Quast.

Time must have been a constraint as the entr'acte wasn't played, lets hope it is recorded anyway. The act began with a hilarious 'Broadway Baby', it started with Julia Mckenzie coming on with her audition piece, Jonathan Pryce was at the piano and Cameron Mackintosh coming over the speaker groaning 'Oh no' when she mentioned she was doing a Sondheim song and Jonathan Pryce made some comment about 'they'll be no tune then' (all in jest I must add : ) Julia started the sing after a few shenanigans with the music but only to lose the limelight a few bars later as Bernadette Peters came on and as they battled for the spotlight Maria Friedman stole the light from both of them. Then many ladies from past productions came on many guises asking Cameron for their chance to 'be in a show' A song which ended with Julia, Bernadette and Maria grappling on the floor for the limelight. The whole thing was very funny.

Then there was an introduction to the London audience of Hugh Jackman, the new Curly in the National Theatre's revival of Oklahoma. I've heard a lot about him and now I know why. A fabulous voice and the looks aren't half bad either !!! Then Carousel, this picked up near the end of the show starting with the 'Louise Ballet' beautifully danced by Dana Stackpole and Vadam Benar, then the porch scene where Billy gives the star to Louise and then the emotional finale. Well it had me in tears and Joanna Riding making me regret very much not seeing the show in London.

I'm a semi Sondheim fan, liking some shows, some songs but also finding others hard to access. The section we were treated to included some of my likes and faves. Maria, Ruthie, Lea and Millicent Martin sang a comic 'Crazy' from Company, followed by Judi Dench's wonderful 'Send in the Clowns', vocally she is not the best but she created such emotion and character which made the song so real. Michael Ball sang Losing my Mind but again Bernadette Peters stopped everything with 'Being Alive' The section ended with Julia, Ruthie and Bernadette showing us their 'gimmick' from Gypsy.

One of the many highlights was seeing Stephen Sondheim in person. He announced he had written a song especially for the evening but that his duet partner couldn't make it so they had recorded their duet. What followed was a hilarious parody by Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber to the tunes of Send in the Clowns and Music of the Night while gazing at a picture of Cameron sitting on the piano !!!

I'm afraid I'm too young to remember Tom Lehrer but apparently this was the first time he had performed for many years. He did a couple of songs, I liked 'Poisoning Pigeons' in the park but not really the second song. Not really my sort of humour.

Cats followed, what superb dancing this show has and it was wonderful to see Elaine Paige perform 'Memory' as it is in the show and not as a standard concert song.

The music of Les Miserables started bringing instant applause from the audience. We were given the chance to see the talent of Ruthie, Lea, Philip, Michael and Colm again. I feel privileged to be able to watch them perform again. How else could the concert end but with 'One Day More', a huge company swelled the ranks to bring this fantastic concert to a close. Cameron came on to the stage and after thanking several people we witnessed his own singing contribution to the evening. As the 'Salad Days' piano came on he sang a few lines from 'We said we wouldn't look back' and bid us all goodnight. Of course it couldn't end like that and the whole company returned to sing 'Old Friends'

As with any evening it goes too quickly and is over too soon, but leaves many memories for years to come.

Only Cameron could stage such a unique concert and to assemble such a company of stars yet on that stage no 'star' was bigger then another, the stars were the shows and the man behind them all. This was a coming together of musical fans, where you could speak to complete strangers knowing they shared your love of musical theatre. I only wish I had seen both nights now.

To finish the evening a trip to stage door, I didn't try for autographs as it was like a rugby scrum, but it finishes the evening off. Worth ever penny and I'd do it all again.

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