The Dominion in London’s glittering West End was packed to the rafters this evening for an event which I can only describe as one of the most wonderfully diverse, entertaining, and genuinely moving I’ve ever spent in the theatre
West End Heroes is a glorious celebration of the capitals theatrical pulling power and is the one night of the year when stars of musical theatre – and television – get the chance to say thank you by giving their time free of charge to this event, now in it’s third year, supported and occasionally overshadowed by The Central Band of the Royal Air Force, under the baton of Squadron Leader Piers Morrell, and with the Royal Air Force Squadronaires.
Other performers are The Band of HM Royal Marines Portsmouth, The Queen’s Colour Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment, The Band of The Army Air Corps, the West End Heroes Choir and Dancers, The Colchester Garrison Military Wives Choir, and cast members of The Two Worlds of Charlie F, Elf – The Musical, Memphis, and The Phantom of the Opera, along with a host of stars too numerous to mention, the whole event being compared by the ebullient and ever-professional Christopher Biggins, who seems to have a costume for every occasion including, wonderfully one for the Act One Finale which saw him being flown in dressed as a chandelier.
Space here precludes me from mentioning everyone, but I’d like to single out a few of the highlights from this wonderful evening.
Although there were splendid performances in the first half, such as the Central Band of The Royal Air Force playing The Fighter Command March, The Queens Colour Squadron of The Royal Air Force doing a dazzling display of gun-handling – and having the audience in stitches by proving to Mamma Mia’s Mazz Murray and compare Biggins that it’s nowhere near as easy as it looks – and the truly moving excerpt from The Two Worlds of Charlie F, sung by Maurillia Simpson and Kate Leiper, for me the highlights were wisely saved for after the interval.
After a couple of numbers from The Central Band of The Royal Air Force, and The Royal Air Force Bluebelles ably assisted by a rather overweight blonde in a short-skirted WRAF uniform who looked a lot like Christopher Biggins, and accompanied by The Royal Air Force Squadronaires, we had the first real WOW of the evening: ‘Tap Your Troubles Away’ from the Jerry Herman Musical Mack and Mable, sung by Barnaby Thompson and performed by the West End Heroes Dancers: In fact I think the most dancers I’ve ever seen tapping in unison on stage at any one time. The effect is breathtaking and certainly took the audience to another level.
Plenty more favours were thrown our way. Following The Royal Marines Corps of Drums, the West End Heroes Choir performed ‘Once We Were Kings’ from Billy Elliot which almost had me in tears. Though originally written to be sung by coal miners, in a military context it takes on a whole new, and if anything more moving, dimension than I’d noticed previously.
After songs from Phantom, and Love Never Dies, we were treated to El Ocho (The Eight) singing Bohemian Rhapsody, heard so very many times until recently in this theatre in We Will Rock You.
A moving rendition of ‘Abide with Me’ and then ‘Sunset’ took us into the final number, ‘Do You Hear the People Sing’, from Les Miserables to send us all out on a high.
I haven’t mentioned the theatre owners, back stage crews, and creatives who did such wonderful work with this concert. Well done. Just one question. Why isn’t this wonderful evening televised?