As great enthusiast for London's theatreland, West End Live is a treasure trove filled to the brim with amazing performances, exclusive theatre experiences and all-round good fun. I go every year to see the shows I love, shows I need tickets for and maybe find out a few I don't. For one weekend only, Trafalgar Square is alive with the sound of musicals, and being completely free to the public, it's definitely a hot ticket.
My day started with Charlie and The Chocolate Factory's Gloop Family merrily singing as I entered Trafalgar Square to the song More of Him to Love. And there appeared to be a lot of love in the crowd, full of excitement and enthusiasm for the day ahead. Sprinkled around the square were lots of stalls with fun activities that included recording your own radio interview, a red carpet themed coconut shy and even the chance to be transported to the amazon in a fun photo booth. My attention went to the main show as I knew Wicked was almost up, so was quite surprised when the presenter announced that they wouldn't be performing on the stage today. However, everything was not as it seemed, when the audience were told to turn their heads in the direction of Canada House. The whole crowd rotated in almost perfect unison and their was an audible gasp in amazement as a green figure stood tall on the top of the building. Singing Defying Gravity, Emma Hatton was very much doing that, and a great way to utilise the London skyline for a truly spellbinding performance.
Next up was one of the biggest talents on the West End, Beverley Knight, giving a powerful rendition of Coloured Woman from the musical, Memphis. The audience went wild and continued cheering as Killian Donnelly took over the reigns for his iconic rendition of Memphis Lives in Me. To round off the set, they were joined by the entire company to perform the high-octane number Steal Your Rock 'n' Roll, which was once again met with rapturous applause. Donnelly is in his final fortnight of the show, as he moves over to Kinky Boots, which begins previews in August this year. His role of Huey will be taken over by X Factor alumni, Matt Cardle, who gave his first performance with the cast on the Sunday concert.
All appeared to be going well as Shrek the Musical took to the stage, however a few minutes into their rendition of The Monkees classic I'm a Believer, the backing stopped mid-lyric. As the saying goes, the show must go on, and it didn't appear to phase the performers as they continued on with the crowds of thousands singing along too. This was a great moment that showcased the talent on the stage and was fun for everyone in the audience to get involved. Another favourite on the Saturday line-up was Thriller Live, singing and dancing through the music of Michael Jackson. With the show recently celebrating becoming the 18th longest running show in the West End, which is certainly no easy feat, they burst on to the stage with all their energy and showed us how they earnt the title.
The cast of Miss Saigon began their set acapella, on purpose this time, with a hauntingly brilliant rendition of Bui-Doi and were soon joined by Hugh Maynard who passionately brought the number home. We were then treated to a preview of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, with songs Bless Yore Beautiful Hide and When You're in Love whetting our appetite for when it takes the stage at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre this summer.
Each year West End Live also open up their programme to some of the performers of tomorrow, allowing children from schools such as Silvia Young to take the stage. They always put on a great show, incorporating a mash-up of musical favourites, performed with such excitement and alarming amounts of potential. And although the main event arena is in Trafalgar Square, there is also a little museum to all things theatre situated in Leicester Square. It is a real treat for any fan of theatre as it's a rare opportunity to see sets, props and costumes up-close. On display were items such as the original model of the Matilda Set, Elphaba's wicked black dress and even THE Kinky Boots, which will soon be treading the boards of the Adelphi Theatre.
One of the performance highlights of the weekend would have to be the cast of Gypsy, in the number You Gotta Get A Gimmick. The cast took to the stage at 5.40pm on the Saturday as the rain was just setting in - but for that number, no one was moving. The stunning performance by the three veterans of Burlesque, was great fun and expertly performed, demonstrating why Gypsy is one of the most talked about shows in the West End.
See performance highlights below: