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Andrew Lloyd Webber's Birthday in the Park


BBC Radio 2
Hyde Park
(2008)

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West End royalty joined by stars from the world of pop and classical music all came together for a special Radio 2 concert in Hyde Park for Andrew Lloyd Webber's 60th Birthday, which was in actual fact six months ago but that's neither here nor there, it was just a great excuse for a good old sing-song.

The popularity of Andrew Lloyd Webber has undoubtedly grown in recent years thanks to reality TV shows such as Any Dream Will Do and I'll Do Anything and with thousands of people turning up for the birthday celebrations there seems to be no sign of this changing. Of course the promise of seeing John Barrowman and Lee Mead, who also have a lot to thank these TV shows for, will also have had something to do with enticing this crowd. However it's when you are presented with three hours of music from Webber's illustrious career that you understand the real reason for his popularity.

The superb BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by musical director Mike Dixon provided the soundtrack for the evening, performing Webber's music with the same passion with which it was written. They were supported by the Crouch End Festival Chorus and Capital Voices who seemed to be having as much fun on stage as their captive audience.

Hosted by the cheeky John Barrowman, Joss Stone opened the concert with a soulful version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" although it was when Webber's songs were performed simply that the audience really took notice. Broadway star Idina Menzel once again proved herself as a leading West End lady with her performance of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina". Having walked on stage to a rapturous applause, Menzel held the whole of Hyde Park in absolute silence with her beautiful performance.

Other notable performances came from Maria Friedman's emotionally charged "As if We Never Said Goodbye" from Sunset Boulevard and Steve Balasmo's "Gethsemane" from Jesus Christ Superstar, which evoked more than a few tears from the audience.

In fact the whole evening was notable; Lee Mead created havoc as his adoring fans went wild every time he appeared on stage, X Factor's Rhydian singing Phantom's "Music of the Night" showed it's clearly a matter of time until we see him in this musical and Ruthie Henshall, racing over from the Albert Hall after recording the Songs of Praise Christmas Special showed absolutely no signs of tiredness with "Another Suitcase In Another Hall" from Evita.

Of course there were also performances from many of the young talent emerging from Webber's TV shows and the judges themselves, Barrowman and Denise Van Outen, also performed on this special occasion.

With the whole crowd on their feet for Lee Mead singing "Any Dream Will Do" followed by Elaine Paige singing the song she made famous "Memory" from Cats, the man himself came onstage for a few words. The audience were then treated to a firework display that seemed to dance to the various songs from Webber's career that were being played below.

Don't feel too jealous if you missed out on this concert. I mean of course you won't actually get to see the firework display but you can listen to the concert on BBC Radio 2 on October 10th at 7.30 and for those that were there - well, you're lucky enough to have the chance to listen to it all over again.

Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan