A Celebration of Rodgers & Hammerstein and Rodgers & Hart with the John Wilson Orchestra at The Sage Gateshead.
ORCHESTRAS can often be the unsung heroes of musicals, confined to the pit during stage productions and providing backing music in films.
But in shows like Oklahoma! and South Pacific, the technical brilliance of instrumentalists is what makes the songs so delightfully memorable and it is important that musicians receive appropriate recognition now and again.
This concert did exactly that and allowed the audience to witness the mastery of the John Wilson Orchestra centre stage as they performed a charming mixture of big band and Broadway numbers.
Rousing orchestral performances of arrangements from The Sound of Music and On Your Toes acted as a nice complement to songs like I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa My Hair and The Lady is a Tramp.
All four singers were superb but a special round of applause was reserved for Seaham-born baritone Sir Thomas Allen, whose voice was warmly commanding throughout South Pacific’s This Nearly was Mine and Allegro’s Come Home.
The evening also featured some amusing moments, as when John Wilson shamelessly plugged the orchestra’s new CD as a possible Christmas present.
Kim Criswell singing To Keep my Love Alive, a ballad humorously detailing how a wife butchered all her many husbands, had women in the auditorium giggling while the men shuffled awkwardly in their seats, hoping the song would not spark any ideas.
The audience were even treated to a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone during the encore and, although this made the Sage feel like an incredibly upmarket football stadium, the number from Carousel was a pleasant way to round off the night.
It may sound bizarre but for all the glitz and glamour of musicals, stripping down the elements to just an orchestra, a selection of singers and an acoustically gifted room helped us all to appreciate these melodies that much more.
The setting was simple and John Wilson’s words were few and far between, but his decision to let the music speak for itself made the evening a resounding triumph.