Review: ★★★★ ‘And The Award Goes To’, Gerry’s (Theatre Royal Stratford East)

And the Award Goes To…! is the first cabaret-style concert produced by The Out of Work Collective. Arranged by Henry Brennan, this concert takes you on a journey throughout musical theatre history, looking at a broad selection of shows that have won the Tony Award for Best New Musical. The show reunited the creative team from the company’s previous production, Ordinary Days; Michelle Payne as Director, Henry Brennan as Musical Director and produced by Megan Fitzpatrick and Henry Brennan.

Let me introduce you to the cast;

And The Award Goes To featured songs from shows which have won Tony Awards for Best New Musical. There were a considerable number of shows featured which haven’t had much of a life this side of the Atlantic which was incredibly refreshing. The variety of songs performed kept all audience members engaged and impressed, from musical theatre ‘super fans’ to those less familiar with the in jokes on the broadway scene.

The show opened with a mashup of Another Opening, Another Show, and Comedy Tonight. As cliché as that may have been, it was done brilliantly. From there, the whole production flowed perfectly which isn’t something to be taken for granted in a setting like this. Not only had wonderful songs been chosen, it was evident that the running order and been carefully thought about.

David Black’s charm engaged the audience consistently and his voice didn’t disappoint. His performance of Purpose from Avenue Q was particularly brilliant and he Avenue Q’s mix of comedy and true sentiment shone through. Lauren Lockley gave a stunning performance of Maybe This Time from Cabaret, which won Tony Awards for its original production in 1967 as well as for the 1998 Broadway Revival. Her rendition showed off her impressive range and was heartbreaking for all of the right reasons.

Sam Sugarman’s vocals in One Song Glory stood out, despite my feeling that this wasn’t the best choice of song from Rent, to lift for a concert setting. I feel that it is a song which while beautifully written, makes far more sense in the context for which it was intended.

Not afraid to take songs out of their original context, Lauren Lockley and Samantha Carlyle’s version of The Confrontation from Les Miserables was not only vocally impressive but also very, very funny. Carlyle played a sassy Javert and Lockley an unrelenting Valjean, which made for an incredibly amusing duo. Megan Fitzpatrick’s interruption of Aaron Jenson’s I believe from The Book Of Mormon with her own rendition of I Have Confidence from The Sound Of Music was also a cleverly arranged piece and became a brilliant, original duet.

Charlotte Payne stood out with each of her performances, and honestly I’m not sure why no one has cast her in Kinky Boots yet. Her renditions of both Changing My Major and The History Of Wrong Guys were beautifully performed and showed her versatility as an actress, as she made both pieces completely her own.

A special mention has to go to Henry Brennan who is one of the most talented pianists I have ever seen in a context like this, I don’t think there’s anything he couldn’t have played. Anyone who can play Jason Robert Brown at the drop of a hat during an open mic after playing a whole concert, wins my metaphorical vote. His arrangements and his versatility showcased the extent of his talent and I hope to see more of him and his work in the future.

I’d love to see the cast ‘off book’ while introducing each piece – whenever we caught a glimpse of personality of each cast member it was just wonderful and it would be great to see more of that. Personally, I’d also absolutely love to hear such a talented bunch sing Anybody Have A Map from Dear Evan Hansen and Life Support from RENT. No pressure, guys.

The only complaint I have about this whole production is that I wish it had been in a different venue. Theoretically, it is a wonderful place and it should have been a match made in heaven – but there was little regard from the venue for those performing and they even ground coffee during one song, which seemed avoidable if not plain rude.

This is an incredibly talented cast who have taken a tough industry into their own hands and done so very, very well. I would undoubtedly recommend anyone who enjoys musical theatre to go and see their next production. I look forward to hearing more from them; not that I wish them to be Out Of Work for much longer!

Full Disclosure – Lauren Lockley happens to be a very good friend of mine, but honestly if I didn’t genuinely rate her very highly I just wouldn’t have reviewed this piece. All opinions are 100% genuine and unbiased. 

Emma Betty
Emma Betty

Emma Betty is 28 and a nurse in Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Paediatric Intensive Care Unit. Emma has the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Soundtrack (On CD!) to blame for her love for Musical Theatre, which she found in her parents living room pretty much as soon as she was old enough to know what it was. She began combining her love for Theatre, the Internet and Writing while she was still at school, through various blogs and on social media. Having moved to London in 2013, she launched Upper Circle 4 years later. A couple of years on, she is delighted to have a small team and is so grateful to those helping Upper Circle to grow every day!

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