Review Date: June 13 2019
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
The Lion King’s ‘The Circle of Life’ was, I thought, a surprising song choice to open Mad About the Musicals.
However, once the song was over, Michael Courtney, artistic director, baritone/tenor and compare, explained that the Disney production had just become the highest grossing musical of all, time, knocking Phantom of the Opera off the top slot.
Throughout the show there were regular short intervals of narrative, comedy and interactions which worked well, and also educated the audience. Some of the jokes were a little quaint, but they worked in the setting. Some of the joking about Michael’s ‘ditsy’ co-performer Lorna Amy Sullivan (who also happens to be show coordinator and member of the Creative team) although gentle, was a little unnecessary.
Michael had a good rapport with the audience, and really came to life when talking about the roles he had played on stage, including Jesus (twice).
He excelled at the songs from Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, hitting every note in numbers renowned for their difficulty and range, and providing light and shade in all of the right places. Courtney is a truly seasoned performer and a great talent.
Perhaps a little more balance in the cast would work. At times it felt like the equally talented co-performers Lorna Amy Sullivan, Elizabeth Atkinson and Megan Gilmartin were there as backing singers (although there were of course some songs where that was how the song intended). While they each had their own individual songs, perhaps another male performer or larger cast would shake up the dynamic even more.
Elizabeth Atkinson’s version of Music of the Night (alongside Michael Courtney) and Never Enough from The Greatest Showman were goosebump-inducing. She had an excellent stage presence, and was a delight to watch.
There was a full mix of musicals old and new – perfect for fans and newcomers alike. Frozen, Chicago, Miss Saigon were covered, and there was also perhaps more surprising choices such as Smash (a highlight of a solo from Megan Gilmartin) and Avenue Q.
There was a very sweet appearance by Hoylake School of Dance, who took the show towards a rousing end of the first half with songs from The Greatest Showman.
The songs presented were certainly diverse, and not always the first songs you would think of. ‘I Felt Nothing’ from A Chorus Line performed by Lorna Amy Sullivan was memorable and offered both lightness and heart.
The costumes were suitably glitzy, and became more glamourous as the show went on. Perhaps Michael Courtney’s initial outfit could have done with a sequin or two to give more of a ‘showbiz’ feel, but by the second half all of the outfits went up a notch in glamour and colour.
The lighting design worked very well, evoking each musical by using its colour scheme (this worked especially well for Wicked and Les Miserables).
Mad About the Musicals is in its twelfth year of touring across the country. It clearly stays fresh for audiences by keeping up to date with the latest trends and West End and Broadway successes. This was a very enjoyable show, suitable for fans of musicals old and new.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent