Concert Hall, September 29
It was as clean as whipping a tablecloth out from underneath the cups and saucers. Bobby Fox didn’t get a look-in until the 10th song, whereupon he promptly stole the show, singing The American Dream from Miss Saigon. Suddenly there was panache by the helicopter load, helped enormously by this being one of the cleverest and funniest songs that Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schoenberg have penned.
Do You Hear the People Sing? is a lavish concert celebration of the songs of this composing team, most famous for adapting Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Four decades on, that show has apparently been seen by 130 million people in 45 countries, and its creators were present to take a bow before an enthusiastic ovation at the end.
Yet the very quality that probably made their work so popular can also be an irritant, and that is a tendency towards emotional one-dimensionality. Too often the words fully articulate a character’s tragedy or malaise atop predictably soaring melodies, with no subtext and without asking the audience to connect any dots. The upshot is musical theatre at its most simplistic, when compared with the sophistication of Steven Sondheim, Kander and Ebb or Cole Porter.
That’s why The American Dream stood out, as did Fox’s other feature, Master of the House from Les Mis, where, once again, the tone is wry, sly and wicked, rather than the song wearing its heart on its soggy sleeve. Here Fox was joined by Rachel Tucker, who shared his acting flair, and had the pick of the voices among the show’s female stars, the impressive international cast boasting Sooha Kim, Suzie Mathers and Marie Zamora, with the men being Michael Ball, John Owen-Jones and David Harris. They were accompanied by a chorus and 24-piece orchestra conducted by Guy Simpson.
Among the tear-jerkers and anthems, Bring Him Home (from Les Mis) stood out, the voices of Owen-Jones, Ball and Harris blending with exquisite transparency amid the sonic detail afforded by the revamped Concert Hall.