‘I think it’s time to do some stripping,’ says Matt Willis, formerly of the noughties boyband Busted, now one of the slickly suited quartet of male musical theatre stars to whom this concert show is devoted.
You will be either relieved or disappointed to hear that Willis only removed his jacket – but the resulting whoops from the stalls set the tone for what is rather a ragbag of an evening, carried only by the considerable charisma of Willis and his fellas: TV talent show star Lee Mead, West End veteran Glenn Carter (to be replaced from June 10 by Stephen Rahman-Hughes) and Olivier-winner David Thaxton.
The songlist is, as you’d expect, a smorgasbord of cheese, featuring everything from West End and Broadway classics to pop anthems – ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay, Seal’s ‘Kiss From a Rose’. There’s a particular emphasis on the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber, which will either delight you or make you want to put your head in your hands, and a rousing rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ with an on-stage choir, which will do much the same.
Several of the songs seem ill-suited to the West End Men’s talents – they were sometimes belting rather than singing, although that may just have been first-night nerves. But some standout performances, particularly from Carter and Thaxton, and playful banter soon usher in a more relaxed atmosphere; as does the arrival of the superb Kerry Ellis (Carley Stenson will take over from June 17). Perhaps that just goes to prove that West End men are, ultimately, at their best in the company of West End women.
By Laura Barnett