WEST END HEROES – Dominion Theatre, London.
If you’re going to do something, you may as well do it with style, and as one-night-only charity concerts go, you would be hard pressed to find one as lavish as the third annual West End Heroes. Rich military tradition and good old fashioned Variety combine surprisingly well to create an enjoyable celebration in aid of the charity Help For Heroes, dedicated to supporting injured servicemen and women when they return from the front line.
Lending the evening the grandeur it deserved were the Royal Air Force Squadronaires, a magnificent big band playing their way through everything from traditional hymns to the newest family Musical. In the cavernous Theatre that is the Dominion, the resonance of their sound was magnified and filled the space. Impressive too were The Royal Band of the HM Royal Marines Portsmouth, showcasing the precision and discipline we have come to expect from a military marching band. Military displays of this nature are inherently theatrical, and feel perfectly at home surrounded by the talented performers you would usually expect to find on a West End stage.
At the other end of the spectrum, the larger than life Christopher Biggins presented the evening in, as always, ridiculously camp and over the top fashion. He proved to be just was needed, producing laughs aplenty and even getting involved, Generation Game style, with the Queen’s Colour Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment, famed for their high standard drills.
As far as the West End portion of West End Heroes is concerned, the audience were not disappointed. Most excitingly perhaps, we were treated to a preview of Elf The Musical, opening in the very same theatre at the end of the month for the festive season. From the new to the classic, in the form of John Owen Jones, with Celinde Schoenmaker performing numbers from The Phantom of the Opera, and Jon Robyns and Rachel John doing it for the alternates in a couple of emotional and rousing numbers from Memphis. A particular highlight was ‘Once We Were Kings’ from Billy Elliot performed by the West End Heroes Choir accompanied by The Royal Marines Corps of Drums, a song remarkably apt for such an event, and the finale ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ from Les Misérables, lead by the wonderful Bradley Jaden.
In the more poignant, sombre moments we were reminded of the power of theatre, not only as entertainment but for its ability to tell stories and allow an audience to inhabit a world that they may otherwise not be exposed to. The Two Worlds of Charlie F is a play told from a soldiers point of view as he battles through recovery and rehabilitation, and was performed most recently last year by both professional actors and both serving and medically discharged military personnel. Also reminding us in a beautiful way of why we were there, and epitomising the spirit of occasions such as this, The Colchester Military Wives Choir underline the way in which music can bring people together and help to overcome difficult situations.
West End Heroes was an entertaining concert for a brilliant cause, bringing together two different worlds with the shared goal of raising money and awareness for Help For Heroes and the work they do caring for wounded soldiers and their families. Long may it continue.
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By Catherine Duffy