I was lucky enough to be invited to the one-off production, well rather a musical concert, at Cadogan Hall (official link).
Presented by The British Theatre Academy this production was a semi-staged concert of the Godspell. Telling the story of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Matthew the show takes the audience and the disciples on a journey, learning about the concepts of compassion, trust, humility, teamwork, action and love, as they seek to build a ‘Beautiful City’ of a better future. It is billed as ‘… a musical full of charm, warmth and great philosophy.”
The show featured a range of musical talents from the West End including Laura Baldwin (Waitress), Luke Bayer (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie), Max Bowden (Eastenders), Rachel John(Hamilton) and Ramin Karimloo (Phantom, Les Misérables, Holby City) as well as many of the up and coming talents and next generation of musical stars.
This one-off concert ran for 130 minutes with a 20minute interval (split as Act I – 70 mins, 20 minute interval and Act II – 40 mins).
The venue is a short walk from Sloane Square and is a beautiful church like building.
I collected my ticket from the box office (C22 stalls) and made my way to the bar.
The inside of the building is lovely and has been recently refurbished in a pleasant and traditional decor. There are several bars I went to the main one but there is The Oakley Bar and Cafe also. Prices are not too bad (traditional venue prices) and they do bar snacks such as crisps and nuts. It is a large area as well with seating too so it does t feel that crowded. I also have to say that the air conditioning was great as it was 30 centigrade (86 Fahrenheit) today. I waited for the house to open.
Once opened I made my way to my seat. My seat was was two from the end of row see stage right and had a great view of the stage. The seats flip up threatening style seats with plenty of leg room and padded seat. The first four rows are AA to DD so row A is actually seven rows from the front. It is an impressive building and venue with high ceilings and as a church has a real calm feeling about the building. The stalls seating is in three sections with two smaller sections either side of the main seating block. Running above the smaller side seating area is the gallery, complete with ornate edging. Overall an impressive venue and one which is slightly different to others.
The ‘set’ is actually a concert set. Along the centre of the stage are 6 coloured blocks. Behind this is the band and either side is the stage at an angle from the centre are a series or chairs on tiers where the choir sits. This is all against the original backdrop of the hall and the wooden galley area on stage. Impressive.
I have to say that I had no idea what to expect but the show was excellent. The actors from the British Theatre Academy (BTA) were all energetic, enthusiastic and performed well. I liked the way that all the cast were involved in some way, from being part of an ensemble that came into its own in places such as the goats and sheep scene or came forward to tell the various fables. There were a number of emerging talents in this group such as the actor who sang the song with the broom or the young rapper in red jacket and cap (unfortunately there was no programme so I can not name them but if you know them please pass this on or even better tell me and I will add them to the review!). What I particularly liked was that, apart from Luke Bayer (playing Jesus) and Max Bowden (playing Judas), the guest artists sang a song with the troupe and then exited the show. This meant that the spotlights were on the BTA cast but supported and encouraged by the guests.
Luke Bayer (playing Jesus) was excellent and managed to combine the professionalism with allowing the up and coming stars to shine. He has a great singing voice and also a great stage presence that ensured the production flowed.
Max Bowden (playing Judas) was excellent as the non-believer and questioner who ultimately betrays Jesus (Luke Bayer). He has a great voice and a stage presence that demands you watch which worked well for the character. He also manages to convey the uneasiness of the betrayal too.
Laura Baldwin (guest singer, singing Day by Day) was excellent. She has a great voice and this was used well to reach the high notes of this number and the scales required to deliver a powerful and straight form and to the heart. I liked the way that during the number, the audience was quiet and transfixed by the performance.
Rachael John (guest singer, singing Learn Your Lessons Well) was excellent and provided a powerful, soulful rendition of the song. She harmonised well with the cast and this drew the audience into the meaning of the song as they listened intently.
Ramin Karimloo (guest singer, singing Beautiful City) was excellent and bought a sense of calm to the song. A great voice was used well, matching the scales of the song. During this number the audience was extremely quiet and fixed, watching the performance.
Overall this was a great production. The fact that there was no set did not distract from the production and actually enhanced the show as you were transfixed by the performances on stage and not wowed by the scenery or its change. I loved the inclusion of West End singers and performers as this added a further dimension to the piece and you could see the joy on the BTA cast for having them there and working and learning from them (as I am sure the West End singers did from the BTA cast!). A great evening and performances.