Musical theatre stars are taking to the stage at the London Coliseum to perform their own concerts that will be streamed online throughout September.
Starring Sharon D Clarke, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Kerry Ellis, Cassidy Janson, Ramin Karimloo, Sharon Sexton and Rob Fowler, the artists will perform a selection of their favourite songs. Delving into their careers and the music that shaped them, it’s set to be a compelling series of concerts.
I spoke to the director, Annabel Mutale Reed, about what we can expect. “We went into the London Coliseum and recorded six megastars,” she said. “Six of the best singers in the world singing their favourite songs – it was amazing.”
For most of the performers, it was the first time they’d been inside a theatre since lockdown. “First up we had Sharon D Clarke and after four or five months of not hearing anyone sing live, hearing Sharon D Clarke singing I Know Where I’ve Been was incredible,” Annabel said.
As creative director, Annabel’s role includes working with the artists to create what the recording will look like. “There was a lot of discussion about how it would be shot,” she said. “Like should it be a documentary vibe? But we realised, what people are craving though all this is showbiz. They want to see the best people in the business in a slick and exciting way. So we pulled out all the stops.
“It was as if you were watching a gig at the London Coliseum – that kind of production value but there was no audience with the empty seats as a backdrop. We wondered if that was going to be a bit weird or a bit morbid, but there are some instances where it is so poignant that they are singing in front of this empty theatre.
“In the London Coliseum, the seats just cry out to be filled. The fact that the auditorium is empty, meant that there was a real poignancy in some moments. It was a really special project to work on.”
Annabel talks about a moment when Sharon D Clarke was singing a mash-up of Diamonds are Forever and Goldfinger, which she described as ‘absolutely mesmerising.’ “When we were filming I said, ‘would it be too much to use a disco ball?’ and Sharon said, ‘absolutely not, it’s camp as tits!’ So that really set the bar for what we could do with the aesthetic of the concerts.”
Annabel gushed about all the acts that are set to perform, especially since their set is a celebration of the musical numbers made them who they are. “The overarching theme is that it is music that really means something to these artists and it is a real privilege to hear them chat about the way they chose the songs,” Annabel said.
The effect of the pandemic on the arts industry has been detrimental and six months on, the industry are still waiting to open their doors once again. Concerts like this are shining a light on the beauty of theatre and the need for the arts in our lives. All the singers touch on this in their performances.
“There is a moment where Carrie Hope Fletcher is singing I Dreamed a Dream, and she should have been singing that 8 times a week in Les Mis in the West End, but to just capture her singing it with the empty auditorium in the background is so moving,” said Annabel.
“I think that the magic of the Les Mis score, those songs are about this really prolific moment in history but they are so universal. For example the lyric, ’I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living,’ hearing this in an empty auditorium really meant something. No matter when adversity the music is about, it just feels like it was written for this moment. “
Alongside the powerhouse concerts, the Tonight at the London Coliseum series includes the world premiere of Katie Lam and Alex Parker’s new musical After You, starring Bradley Jaden and Alexia Khadime. Telling the story of a cruise ship that sets sail from the southern tip of England and heads to New York City through a dynamic score.
Slowly but surely, theatre is coming back in one way or another. Tonight at the London Coliseum boasts exceptional musical talent innovatively streamed directly into your home. Celebrate the resilient arts industry and enjoy an evening of sublime entertainment that will remind you just how much we need our theatres open again once more.
Friday 18 September: Sharon D Clarke
Friday 25 September: Carrie Hope Fletcher
Friday 2 October: Cassidy Janson
Saturday 3 October: After You – A New Musical
Friday 9 October: Kerry Ellis
Friday 16 October: Sharon Sexton and Rob Fowler
Friday 23 October: Ramin Karimloo
All tickets will cost £15 with a portion of each ticket sold going to the ENO Contingency Fund, a charity that is committed to bringing opera to as many people as possible. Tickets available on their website.
Tonight at the London Coliseum is produced by Jack Maple and Brian Zeilinger, on behalf of Take Two Theatricals, in association with Jamie Chapman Dixon and John-Webb Carter on behalf of Carter Dixon Productions.