A warming and appealing tribute
By Narelle Wood
The name Alan Menken is synonymous with so many Broadway and Disney productions: it is hard to capture the gamut of his career, especially in a 2-hour performance review. But the ensemble cast of the review The Songs of Alan Menken certainly did their best to show the range of styles and shows that Menken has contributed to.
The ensemble of seven singers (Seth Drury, Josh Ellwood, Zuleika Khan, Vanessa Menjivar, Liam J. O’Bryne, Emily Paddon-Brown and Jeff van de Zandt) treated us to songs from wonderful movies and musicals such as Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tangled, and Sister Act. The accompanying choreography (by Rhys Velasquez) and staging (Matthew Lockitt) was simple and seamless, and the lighting was flawless. The only distracting thing was the occasional ‘off-pitch’ note, which was perhaps less about the very talented singers, and more to do with the demanding range needed to perform some of Menken’s more complicated scores. (That, and the appearance of some stuffed animals, which seemed a little bit corny in light of the rest of the show.)
More important were the number of standout moments. “Need to Know” from Weird Romance has become my unofficial ‘geek’ anthem and the duet of “I Can Read You” (Leap of Faith) performed by O’Byrne and Menjivar was brilliant. In saying that, one of my favourite moments came courtesy of Drury and Van de Zandt’s duet of “A Whole New World”: hands down one of the cutest duets of all time. The showstopper though was the ensemble singing one of Menken’s perhaps lesser-known songs, “Sailing On“. It was not a big upbeat number, but an understated and moving arrangement by musical director Lucy O’Brien, with stunning harmonies adroitly performed.
Ultimately, The Songs of Alan Menken was the perfect way to spend a cold Saturday afternoon, with the music of Menken lingering on way after the performance was over.
This production of The Songs of Alan Menken was performed on June 24, 2017 at The Southbank Theatre.
Image by James Terry Photography