Review: Les Musicals, The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, June 26
Whoever thought it would be a good idea to team two former television talent show stars together to sing songs from the musicals deserves a pat on the back.
I admit, following a busy week the idea of sitting on my sofa for the evening was more appealing than listening to show tunes performed by Jonathan Ansell and Jai McDowell. Thank goodness I ignored my urge to be a hermit at home, because Les Musicals was unexpectedly brilliant.
There must have been plenty of Greatest Showman fans in the packed Apex house on Wednesday, as an opening medley of tunes from the hit movie received a rapturous welcome.
At this point I was still easing myself into the fact I was on a night out rather than home alone eating Haribo, while also recovering from a rather stressful queue for coffee in the foyer. But from the moment the pair started singing Bui Doi, from my favourite musical Miss Saigon, I was won.
I may enjoy performing in musicals, but I've never considered myself a big 'musicals' fan'. However the set list for Les Musicals begs to differ. Either that, or Jonathan and Jai have the same taste in music as I. Alongside classics such as Love Changes Everything (Aspects of Love, not a favourite of mine), there were stellar performances of some lesser-known musical tracks, such as 'Til I Hear You Sing (Love Never Dies, and up there in my top three) and We Both Reached for the Gun (Chicago, and 20 years after playing in the chorus I can still remember how many 'the guns' to sing).
There was not a note out of place from our leading men and you felt in safe hands throughout. In fact, my only 'cringe' moments came when Britain's Got Talent winner Jai Mc Dowell wiggled his bottom, much to the delight of many audience members I might add.
But it was former G4 member Jonathan Ansell, who found fame through the very first series of X Factor in 2004, who stole the show for me. His confidence, talent and charisma shone through in every note.
The second half opened with the chords of Starlight Express, bringing back memories of the late 1980s and seeing the musical in the West End. So I was a bit disappointed when Jai walked on stage instead of rollerskating. My disappointment was short-lived however, when Jonathan came gliding on a hoverboard, using the 2019 equivalent of skates, while wielding a pair of lights to resemble a train.
Yes, there was a fair amount of humour thrown in throughout, which you need when heavyweight tracks such as Anthem, from Chess, are on the programme, or the epic Gethsemane, from Jesus Christ Superstar. And it was just these two performances which stole the show for me. Jai was note perfect for Anthem, but Gethsemane took my breath away. Jonathan gave it his all, delivering the notoriously demanding number with emotion, power and clarity.
The show ended with a perfectly-pitched encore of Queen songs from We Will Rock You. It normally takes a lot to get me up dancing, but before I knew it I was grooving away, along with a good portion of the audience. Jonathan and Jai were rewarded with a well-deserved standing ovation at the close, while I've been telling everyone I see about it for days on end.
Musicals fan or not, if Les Musicals returns to the Apex you simply must see it.