Review by Suzanne Tate
It has been almost 50 years since Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil began their musical partnership, with the debut of La Révolution Français, in 1973. This weekend it was an absolute privilege to witness a wonderful homage to their amazing joint career so far, Do You Hear the People Sing?
The principal roles in this epic performance were sung by some of the crème de la crème of the musical theatre world. Michael Ball, John Owen-Jones, Rachel Tucker, Bobby Fox, David Harris, Sooha Kim, Suzie Mathers and Marie Zamora embodied each role, despite the concert-style presentation, and switching back and forth between roles. The vocal performances were excellent, with the only blemish to a perfect performance being a couple of small technical glitches, such as Kim’s microphone being turned on late in one piece, and Zamora’s voice catching occasionally, perhaps due to illness or vocal strain. Zamora was a true professional however, at times withholding her full strength in the lower registers to protect her voice, and her soprano range was clear and true. Zamora brings a unique perspective as the ‘original’ Cosette and she also sang the majority of her numbers, such as ‘Au Petit Matin’ and ‘Mon Histoire’, in French, which was an interesting addition.
Ball and Owen-Jones are both musical powerhouses, and their performances were stellar. Among Ball’s numbers this evening was ‘Why God, Why?’ and the haunting ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’, which gave me goosebumps. Owen-Jones’ faultless performances included ‘In the Land of the Fathers’, and ‘If I Said I Loved You’. The beautiful, haunting ‘Bring Him Home’, performed by Ball, Owen-Jones and David Harris was a high point of the show.
Other highlights for me in the male principal’s performances was David Harris’ amazing power and range, and the comedic element introduced by Bobby Fox. Harris performed stunning renditions of ‘I’m Martin Guerre’ and ‘I’ll Be There’, and Fox had the audience laughing outright at his physical antics in ‘The American Dream’, while delivering faultless vocals, and then amazed us with his world class Irish dancing in the opening number in Act 2. As soon as he appeared on stage to sing ‘Master of the House’, my companion commented, “who else could it be?”. Fox’s expressive face, physical comedy and character filled vocals were perfect for the role of Thénardier, balanced perfectly by Rachel Tucker as Madame Thénardier.
Tucker’s performances were my highlight from the female principals. Her numbers showcased her versatility, from ‘Turn Back the Seasons’, to ‘Woman’, which has inspired in me a wish to see The Pirate Queen, a show with which I was not familiar. Tucker also had the privilege of providing the world premiere performance of ‘Turn back the Seasons’, a new song for a major rewrite of Martin Guerre being undertaken for an upcoming new tour. This premiere performance was yet another moment that made attending this show a unique opportunity for any musical theatre fan.
Suzie Mathers and Sooha Kim also gave impressive, consistent performances. Kim’s numbers included several from Miss Saigon, such as ‘I’d Give My Life for You’, ‘The Last Night of the World’ and ‘The Movie in My Mind’, and Mathers’ performance included ‘If I Said I Loved You’ and ‘On My Own’.
One of the aspects of Do You Hear the People Sing? that took it beyond a concert performance was the narration provided by the cast of the context of various songs within the given show, and information about the development of several of the musicals covered. It was fascinating to gain insight into Schönberg and Boublil’s creative process through Mathers’ performance of the “Ellen” Evolution – a series of songs that showcased the significant changes that occurred between variations of Miss Saigon throughout the years, and which culminated in Tucker’s performance of ‘Maybe’, which represents the current interpretation of Ellen’s character.
The principal performers were supported by a stunning chorus of 6 male and 6 female voices. Their harmonies were impeccable and provided vocal support that sounded like a whole cast ensemble was performing. The full twenty-piece orchestra provided a depth and variety of sound that is not always available for musical theatre, and which enhanced every song.
Do You Hear the People Sing? was directed by Andrew Pole and musically directed by Guy Simpson. The lighting design, by Peter Rubie was also a notable contribution to the epic atmosphere and dramatic environment of the show.
Do You Hear the People Sing? was an iconic performance of much-loved works by masters of the musical theatre genre, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil. To add to the history of the occasion, it was exciting to see that both Schönberg and Boublil were in attendance and joined the cast on stage after the encore to share in the well-deserved accolades.
I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to see this show and witness a historic occasion in musical theatre history and a quintessential performance of Schönberg and Boublil’s works.
For tickets and more information, visit thepeoplesing.com
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DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING? PERFORMANCE DETAILS
Venue: Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne
Dates: Wednesday 28 Sept at 7:30pm
Prices: From $99 (Transaction fees apply)
Bookings: thepeoplesing.com or call 1300 182 183
Venue: Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House
Season: Friday 30 September at 8:00pm, Saturday 1 October at 8:00pm, Sunday 2 October at 2:00pm
Prices: From $99 (Transaction fees apply)
Bookings: thepeoplesing.com or (02) 9250 7777