The outcasts, the forgotten, the unsung… aren’t we always drawn to root for the underdog? Divas Unsung for one-night-only is the grand rekindling of long lost musical theatre gems sung by six of the West End’s leading ladies.
Led by the flamboyant host of the evening, James Barron – whose extravagant quips and questionable humour tugged on the corner of your mouth a little half-heartedly (not necessarily for lack of delivery, but for lack of, well, comedic quality) – the evening contained about 90 minutes of non-stop (albeit long-lost) musical ‘showstoppers’.
Almost immediately, we are plunged back into 1990 and are reliving the grand opening number of a musical that flopped. And why else would you listen to a long-forgotten song of a long-forgotten musical that cost $8m to set up and only ran for five performances? With an audience of presumed musical theatre lovers, I doubt anyone knew more than three or four songs. And while the variation between songs was not huge, the evening featured musical tunes ranging from Kiss of the Spider Woman to Betty Blue Eyes, providing a refreshing and welcome change.
Singing the unsung heroes of Broadway and the West End, the ‘divas’ were a stand-out. There was no shortage of wondrous vocals, from Ashleigh Gray (standby Elphaba, Wicked) and Rebecca Trehearn (Molly, Ghost the Musical) most notably. The vocal harmonies of the MTA choir added a great atmosphere to the performances as well. A particular gem among long-lost-gems was ‘Fly Fly Away’ from Broadway’s tragically short running Catch Me If You Can sung by Ambra Caserotti (RENT), again accompanied by the MTA choir.
It must be said that while the majority of the time-defeated songs were well-deserving of their celebration, some you couldn’t help but ask whether they would perhaps be better left alone – “unsung” for a reason?
The setting was warm and intimate, and although all the seats of Leicester Square Theatre were by no means filled, the atmosphere was energetic and engaging. Barron, the host, despite the questionable humour, was no doubt accountable for this.
Finally, the show would not be complete without the fantastic pianist, James Doughty, whose energy was infectious. It was almost more fun to watch his piano playing; the enthusiasm was pouring out of him.
All in all, the evening was very cabaret. There was lung-defying belting, a black-clad chorus, and an enjoyable evening overall, although I fear even the greatest of musical theatre fans would be tested mid-verse of yet another heart-wrenching, pivotal song for yet another misunderstood young girl in a musical.
Divas Unsung played at Leicester Square Theatre on 22 September 2013.