Britain is too modest in boasting about its achievements but it can be rightly proud of inventing the stage musical.
Musical Director Ross Leadbeater firmly believes that more should be made of our incredible contribution to theatre heritage.
Over Friday and Saturday he gathered a host of singing talent at St James Theatre, in London’s Victoria, to stage The Great British Musicals In Concert and I’m delighted that he’s planning future productions.
The two evening shows were hosted by legendary broadcaster and entertainer Nicholas Parsons while the Saturday matinee was put in the capable hands of actor, writer, director and raconteur, Simon Callow.
With Leadbeater at the piano, and an ensemble of West End talent formed into The Novello Singers, the audience took a musical journey starting with a Gilbert and Sullivan medley and ending with a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber.
It was a remarkable trip and served as a reminder at how we led the world in creating a musical genre.
“It’s with great pleasure that I can announce that I will not be singing,” said Callow. “Although I have directed Carmen Jones, My Fair Lady and The Pajama Game I have never directed a British musical. That is a great sadness to me.”
From Pirates Of Penzance we visited Lionel Monckton, the First World War, Ellis, Gay and Coward, Novello and Sandy Wilson with tunes including Keep The Home Fires Burning, The Boyfriend and Leaning on the Lamppost.
The second act brought the story up-to-date with guest star, West End leading man, Jon Robyns giving a show-stopping performance of Leslie Bricusse/Tony Newley songs Pure Imagination/ If I Rules The World and What King Of Fool Am I.
There was Half A Sixpence’s Flash Bang Wallop, The Time Warp from Rocky Horror and an emotional return to Evita for one of its stars and former Wicked lead Louise Dearman.
The concert ended with The Party’s Over and a promise that more shows are in the pipeline.
The Novello Singers, created especially for the production, were uniformly excellent and an example of why Britain leads the world in musical theatre.
They were: Rhidian Marc (Les Mis); Annatt Bass (Phantom); Leigh Rhiannon Coggins (Pirates Of Penzance); James Charlton (The Light Princess); Mira Ormala (Love Never Dies); Matthew Crowe (South Pacific); Jonathan Broad (West End Men); Lydia Jenkins (Iolanthe); Victoria Humphrys (The Bakewell Bakeoff); and Ben Irish (HMS Pinafore).