Life West End delights eastern crowd
Stars of the West End offered a banquet of musical theater’s greatest hits, from The Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia to Miss Saigon and more obscure productions such as Chess. The four vocalists entertaining the near half-full hall performed gracefully with the poise and class that has defined their decades-long careers in theater.
The troupe has been performing and touring together since 2011, and this year brought them to Asia for the first time, with dates in Singapore and Malaysia featured in their itinerary alongside Jakarta.
How was the performance? You would expect no less from a quartet of highly experienced musical theater singers with classically trained backgrounds and a love for their art.
The group, featuring Mike Sterling, Yildiz Hussein, Shona Lindsay and Tom Solomon, tried their best to entertain an interested crowd and strived to engage their attention using mainly their voices, which were helped by small theatrics during each song according to the musical.
The quartet opened with the title song from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” using on-stage pedestals to properly evoke the angelic aura of the musical’s main character. After a choral number, they followed it up with the jazzy “All That Jazz” from the musical Chicago, with vocalist Hussein showcasing the unique versatility of her voice, which stood out as a more rock-influenced sound. Her history of singing in rock bands and performing rock-oriented musicals definitely shaped her distinctive delivery.
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Each vocalist had the chance to shine solo. Lindsay maintained the theater’s fun through “Popular” from the popular show Wicked, Sterling sung “This is the Moment” from Jekyll and Hyde with class, while Tom Solomon took on “The Show Must Go On” from the Queen-inspired “We Will Rock You”. Speaking of the latter, Solomon was obviously unable to match Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury’s legendary deliverance, but it did not really matter as he made the song his own.
The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables provided the most numbers for the show, with about five tracks from each production. These were also visibly the most anticipated part of the show as the crowd went wild when the performers announced their intention to sing them. Mike Sterling performed as the Phantom, with the play’s famous mask being worn during the play’s numbers, nodding to the fact that he had previously played the Phantom in West End productions of the musical for 30 years.
Each showed their chops as seasoned theater actors, by acting out the characters of the productions, such as when Sterling took on the character of Fagin from Oliver! with “Reviewing the Situation,” or when he and Lindsay performed the title number of The Phantom of the Opera.
As probably one of the more familiar productions to Indonesians, thanks in part to the 2013 film, songs from Les Miserables caught the audience’s attention the most, even prompting a rather sheepish singalong from some members of the otherwise hushed crowd. “I Dreamed a Dream” was performed gracefully by Lindsay, while “The People’s Song” provided a satisfying closer to the night and a raucous encore by the quartet.
The performers could barely contain their excitement being in Jakarta for the first time, with each of them trying to create a comfortable atmosphere through their banter and their interactions with the crowd. They also took the time to provide very brief histories about the productions whose songs they would perform, knowing that some members of the audience might not be wholly familiar with the material at hand.
At some points in the concert, it felt like the audience struggled to maintain their interest especially during relatively unknown numbers. But the set list was designed smartly to keep the party going, with familiar tunes timed to appear after lulls of obscure ones.
Putting on an invincible feel-good song like Mamma Mia’s “Dancing Queen” toward the end of the show saved it from plateauing through hyping up the crowd’s excitement. There was no way anyone in the world would not move or clap to a song like that.
It was the closest that many Indonesians would be likely to come to actually attending a West End show, but the crowd savored every moment of it.