With stunning new photos, glossy flyers, a new website, a Facebook page, a strong Twitter presence from members of the team behind the show and a splash in the press in the lead-up to the debut, the world premiere no less, of the West End Men in concert, there was a real buzz to see exactly what Lee Mead, Stephen Rahman-Hughes, Matt Rawle and their special guest, Kerry Ellis, would deliver.
I have deliberately waited a few days before sharing my thoughts about the concert to avoid posting spoilers for those who were eagerly anticipating the second West End Men show, and the first on the UK mainland, in Guildford last night.
The venue for the first, perched atop cliffs on the site of an ancient fort in Jersey's capital, St Helier, was unusual to say the least - a sports complex at heart, the concert hall is in the centre of the building, separated from its surroundings only by heavy curtains. As a result, the acoustics are not the best I've experienced, but even so the sound produced by four West End stars at the top of their vocal game was incredible.
Without a programme (that was to come in Guildford), every song was a surprise and a delight. The show, produced by Milton Morrissey Ltd and Jason Haigh-Ellery, has a strong and very experienced creative team behind it including director, Mitch Sebastian and Musical Supervisor, David White. The superb band, led by Musical Director Will Stuart on piano, with Leon Rossiter on guitar, Jo Nichols on bass, James Turner on drums and percussion and Dave Bishop on flute, saxophone and occasional clarinet, a local choir formed specially for the occasion, dramatic lighting (Graham Mclusky) and a cleverly designed multi-level set (Kate Unwin), created a spectacle which was matched by the quality of the performances.
The material ranged from musical theatre classics from the pens of Lloyd Webber, Schönberg and Bernstein, through less familiar works to jazz standards and more contemporary numbers. Expecting a bill entirely of musical theatre, I remember my surprise and delight (there's those two words again) when Lee introduced 'Better' early on in the first half. It was the first of four tracks during the evening from his latest album Love Songs - duetting with Kerry on 'Falling Slowly', singing a simply sublime solo of 'Fix You' and joining Matt and Steve in a trio arrangement of 'I Believe...' - an unexpected bonus in an evening filled with wonderful!
There was also a chance for a young musician and songwriter to perform one of his own compositions on the piano - local 17 year old, James Le Seelleur had written to the producers to ask if he could make a guest appearance at the concernt. Full marks to James for initiative and to the producers for giving this immensely talented youngster a platform.
The hugely enthusiastic audience had their chance to sing too - with the concert taking place on Lee's 31st birthday, we couldn't let him go without a surprisingly tuneful mass rendition of Happy Birthday!
Click for the full set-list and credits and please enjoy a few photos from the evening - to be honest I mostly forgot I had my camera to hand, so mesmerised was I by the performers in front of me. I also include, for the record, the back of the flyer shown above.
Lee's full concert schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT DATES
Last updated: 25 May 2015