Big Night of Musicals - BBC Screening Review
Updated: Apr 28, 2022
After a long period of darkness and challenging times for theatre, the task of selling tickets, getting bums on seats, and entertaining the masses has never been more paramount. It’s not very often that musicals make it to the prime-time slot on television, with even movie musicals often hidden in the mess of talk shows, game shows and Christmas specials over the festive period, but this Saturday saw Musicals well and truly stepping into the spotlight with a 90-minute concert on BBC One. The National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals took place in Manchester on Monday 24th, with the event being hosted by Jason Mansford and many a west end favourite taking to the stage.
From Dreamgirls, Beauty and the Beast and The Wiz, to Dear Evan Hansen, The Lion King and Bat out of Hell, productions both big and small were showcased on this massive stage to the millions watching at home and whilst the performances were all great in their own rights, a matter of personal taste meant that not quite everything was to my fancy. I can’t take anything away for the performances themselves, it was more the choices made when choosing what songs to be performed and that.
Dreamgirls, a show that I have seen and one that I did enjoy, but whilst I am as much of a fan of medleys as the next person, this opening performance was just the first of many medleys sung throughout the show. The cast sounded great, I can’t deny that, but I would have loved to just hear one song performed in full rather than snippets. The cast of Back to the Future were up next performing ‘Gotta start somewhere’, in which we were treated to Cedric Neal’s silky vocals and the cast’s super high energy dancing that brought the stage and the crowd alive.
A Disney musicals mixture followed, featuring performances from Frozen, The Lion King and Beauty and The Beast. Thankfully less a medley more a celebration of all things Disney Theatrical with songs performed in full. I say that all things Disney Theatrical were celebrated, but there was a notable absence with no sign of the magical nanny or her cheerful chimney sweep companion. A shame, as Mary Poppins is one of my personal favourites. Next a performance of ‘Ease on down the Road’ from the Hope Mill theatre production of The Wiz, a song packed full of energy and one that only goes to prove that this production deserves a further life on a bigger stage with a larger audience that would really lift it. This was followed by a performance of ‘You Will Be Found’ by the cast of Dear Evan Hanse, a great song, performed very well by the talented cast, but not a show I have any interest in seeing for myself.
The cast of ‘Bat out of Hell’ came roaring onto the stage with their firecracker energy, big dance moves and even bigger songs, and whilst I have nothing against the show, the songs, and the undeniable talent of the cast, I was rather thankful of the ability to turn the volume down. Not that it didn’t sound good, because it did, it sounded great, but it was just so loud. This show has always been loud, whether I’ve seen through a tv screen or at events such as West end Live. Next, we were assured that the future of musical theatre is in safe hands with a performance from the cast of ‘School of Rock’, a show that I am looking forward to seeing again later in the year.
Chelsea Halfpenny impressed greatly with her rendition of ‘Used to Be Mine’ from Waitress, a song that packs an emotional punch. New musical ‘The Drifter’s Girl’ was then giving the spotlight, and the cast, which includes Matt Henry and Beverley Knight, sounded amazing but, yet again, it was another medley. I can see why this is a great way to promote a bigger section of the show in a shorter amount of time, but I just wanted to hear a whole song that wasn’t cut short by a sudden changeover. This was followed by a medley of songs from the cast of ‘Get Up, Stand Up. The Bob Marley Musical.
Star of The Greatest Showman and Broadway, Keala Settle then took to the stage alongside David Bedella to perform Teenage Dream from & Juliet, the show in which she will be making her West End Debut. This will undoubtedly be one of the hottest tickets in town when she makes her debut. The show was closed by the cast of Tina. The Tina Turner Musical, a crowd pleaser.
It was great to see the backstage teams celebrated in a behind the scenes clip from Cinderella, and a celebration of my local theatre royal Plymouth and the curve Leicester production of a Chorus Line. There was also a look forward to new shows coming up including Fisherman’s Friends and The Osmonds.
Overall, it was wonderful to see musicals celebrated on prime time television and considering that I was placed in an online queue at 9pm on a Saturday night to look at tickets for the UK Tour of The Osmonds, it must have been a boost to ticket sales which is a great thing.
Musicals the Greatest Show is now available to watch on BBC Iplayer
Images found via Google, not my own