Attending The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber at Eccles Theater felt like a joyous homecoming. I love this theater. I was there opening night and have had the great fortune to return many times attending concerts, comedy, and theater. This return, after over a year away felt that much sweeter. I even had the box office staff say, “Hi Kevin, welcome back! Here’s your ticket.” before I even made it to the window. It really did feel like I was home.
MagicSpace Entertainment has done it again. They laid out a perfectly socially distanced yet effective production. I was at the Maverik Center last month when they reopened that venue with, RAIN, a Tribute to the Beatles. MagicSpace have found a way to bring shows back while keeping everyone safe. I think it’s a great solution until things can get back to normal.
This time MagicSpace really (Oh gosh, I’m really going to do this aren’t I? Pun Alert!) used their magic with this particular production. They were able to procure the rights to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music for this concert. Not an easy task. Sir Andrew doesn’t give the right to perform the songs from his musicals very easily.
If you’re an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan, then you’ve probably been following how hard he’s worked to get theaters opened in London. He took part in vaccine trials and searched for safe and appropriate ways to get his productions up and running again so that people could get back to work. I think the idea of assisting that happening here in Utah was appealing to him.
I also believe that having his music in the trustworthy hands of Louanne Madorma (Director) and Utah’s own, Kurt Bestor (Musical Director) helped Andrew Lloyd Webber feel comfortable with this production taking place.
The lights dimmed, and on the big digital screen was a note from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber himself titled…
To The Audience of Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City
Thank you for coming to the theater. After this long intermission I am delighted to know that my life’s work is helping your wonderful Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City take this first step to get us back to the stages we love. The pandemic has been terribly challenging for everyone but particularly the theater arts. All of us on stage and behind the scenes appreciate your support. From here in London, I wish you all the very best and hope this is the first of many shows you attend this year both in Utah and around the world.
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Now if that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t think one exists. The audience applauded the letter and the show began!
The orchestra began with “Jellicle Ball” from the musical Cats. The entire cast one by one took the stage to sing “Love Changes Everything” from the musical Aspects of Love. Based on those opening numbers it was very clear that we were in for a good night.
When I review a concert that has recurring performances, I do my best to not spoil the whole show for those who haven’t attended yet. What I’ve decided to do here is I’ll discuss this amazing cast. I’ll choose one song each cast member performed and discuss that performance. That way if you haven’t seen this concert yet, there are still plenty of gems for you to discover. These vocalists all have Utah ties and are some of the best I’ve ever heard in or outside of Utah.
Dallyn Vail Bayles
Dallyn Vail Bayles has an impressive resume of leading roles. Most notably as the title role in ALW’s Phantom of the Opera. It was very difficult to choose just one song of Dallyn’s that stood out above the others. But if have to, I choose “The Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera. It’s a beautiful iconic song. It’s also a very difficult song. Bayles performed it masterfully. Performing some of this music can be difficult because some people already have in their mind the way they want to hear it. Fans have their favorite “Phantom” and they want to hear that song performed a certain way. Let me assure you that you will not be disappointed in this performance. I’m one of those people. I have a favorite phantom. I have a few actually. And I was totally blown away by this performance.
I know I said I would only bring up one song but I have the pictures so I feel like I gotta bring up that Dallyn Vail Bayles also sang “Song of the King” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He performed with the One Voice Children’s Choir and it was a really fun and upbeat part of the concert. A total departure from any of his other songs he performed.
It’s difficult to not notice that last name, isn’t it? David is indeed part of the famed Osmond family. David has forged his own path in the entertainment world with his music and hosting. However he followed in his Uncle Donny’s footsteps not only taking over the role of Joesph in the Salt Lake City production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but he went on to perform the role in five separate companies. I had the opportunity to talk with David last week and we discussed this role, having to step in for his uncle due to laryngitis and this concert. Feel free to check out our conversation!
I have to choose “Close Every Door to Me” from Joseph… because it was not only David’s best performance of the night, but after interviewing him and talking about Joseph… I had to hear him sing something from Joseph. David was totally dialed in with what it takes for this song to fly. He displayed the despair and then the fortitude of Joseph in this song. He knew just how to perform it.
The One Voice Children’s Choir appeared with David as well. They added to the emotion of the song simply with their presence. Dimly lit in the background then the lights began to shine on them as they began to sing. It was really impactful. David of course brought the song home as the big note crescendos its way to the finish. Utah loves this musical, and they loved this performance from David Osmond. There was a noticeably loud ovation for this song.
Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller
We have a Tony Award winner in our midst, folks! Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller won her Tony for her portrayal of Mimi in Baz Luhrman’s production of La Bohéme. I love that music and after watching her performance in The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, I wish I could have seen her in La Bohéme. I’m sure it was amazing. I mean she won a Tony for it, of course it was!
I had a difficult time deciding on what song of Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller’s I would share. They were all so amazing and I didn’t want to spoil anything. But the song song that kept coming to mind was and the song you should really see performed live was the title song from Phantom of the Opera. Hopkins Seegmiller performed with (Okay so maybe I’m revealing three songs he did!) Dallyn Vail Bayles. I must emphasize that Hopkins Seegmiller had some of the best solos of the night, but this duet brought down the house.
If you’re familiar with this piece you’ll recall that at the end of the song, the Phantom beguiles Christine to “Sing” and as she does she continues to hypnotically sing higher and higher up the scale. Each run higher than the last! The song ends with Christine or Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller in this case ending on an E. The E two octaves above Middle C! Getting to hear Hopkins Seegmiller hit that note is worth the price of admission alone. I found myself inching closer and closer to the edge of my seat. My eyes glued to the action on stage. The build-up to that moment in the song was performed so well. I almost couldn’t wait for that note, and when it hit my ears it was pure bliss. She was amazing. What a talent!
Nicole Riding has performed in a number of shows right here in the Greater Salt Lake City area. Riding has performed at Pioneer Theater and Hale Center Theater on multiple occasions. She also toured with the national production of Les Misérables in the role of Eponine. I really enjoy that character and would have loved to have seen her in that!
Evita is one of my favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. Nicole Riding performed, “Buenos Aries” from that production. Riding was joined on stage by dancers, Ezra Sosa and Stephani Sosa. The song is so colorful and upbeat. Including the dancers for this was a no brainer. They would perform a few times throughout the evening but this was definitely my favorite of their appearances.
Now Sir Andrew has a tendency to not be very nice to vocalists. The range and stylizing of his songs can be maddening for some, and simply impossible for others. But when vocalists can sing an Andrew Lloyd Webber song, there nothing quite like it. And Nicole Riding can sing an Andrew Lloyd Webber song. The vocal stylings of Eva Perón (Evita) are tricky. There is a lot of moving from chest voice to head voice and back. Sometimes on a note to note basis. I’ve seen this botched many times. But Riding made those transitions flawlessly. As much as I would enjoy seeing her in Les Mis, I would pay good money to see her play Eva Perón. The small sample size The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber gave me was enough of an indicator to show me she’d be excellent.
Lexi Walker began her performing career at the age of 11, signing with SONY at 13. With two albums to date and over 100 million YouTube views, Lexi Walker has most certainly made a name for herself in the music world. Walker has performed with the likes of Lindsey Stirling, The Piano Guys, and Idina Menzel. She rounded out The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber cast quite nicely.
Walker sang some of my favorite ALW songs. Some of them are not what you might call Sir Andrew’s “Greatest Hits”. They’re either from lesser-known or newer musicals than say, Phantom of the Opera or Cats. However, they’re some of my personal favorites. I was invested in Lexi Walker’s performances because I haven’t had the chance to hear these songs performed live.
Not many people know that there is a sequel to Phantom of the Opera. It’s true. It’s titled Love Never Dies. Lexi Walker sang the title song. I have heard this song from its inception and it seemed like Andrew Lloyd Webber was trying the right vehicle for it and finally, it found a home in the Phantom sequel. The moment the logo appeared on the digital screen my ears perked up.
Walker sang this song beautifully and sweetly. It’s a powerfully moving song and what would an ALW song be if there wasn’t a ton of range within the song. Lexi covered that scale perfectly. From the emotion to the scope of the music, Walker made it her own and delivered on a very challenging piece.
It turns out Andrew Lloyd Webber loves the E two octaves above middle C. Because as memory serves this song also has that note in it. Walker hit that note clear as a bell. It was impressive.
There’s not much to criticize about this production. The orchestra was fabulous, backup singers, Rebekah Nelon, Faith Read, Tagaloa Tapusoa, and Davis Underwood were excellent, and the lighting and effects were on point. The only issue I had with the digital screens was whenever they would project the vocalist on the screen there was about a half-second delay. I found it a little distracting. Not a huge deal, and hopefully they can get that more in sync for future shows. Honestly, Eccles Theater is intimate enough that the performers don’t really need to be seen on the digital screens. I found it much more effective when the screens had themes from the musical that was being performed or the musical’s logo itself.
My only other nitpick is I would have liked to have seen more ensemble pieces or duets. My guess is due to Covid precautions and limited group rehearsals the production went with a show with more solos so there were no issues leading up to the opening night. This cast was just so talented that I think it would have been fun to see them perform together a few more times. That being said, I don’t know what songs they would have replaced because this setlist was perfect in my opinion.
Can’t Forget Kurt
While the performing cast is detailed above with the principal vocalists, It’s impossible not to include Kurt Bestor as the sixth cast member. Kurt was on stage the entire concert, playing his piano and conducting the orchestra. He interacted at times with the other cast members and was quite often a focal point in the concert, intended or not. He almost sat on stage as a silent narrator, leading us from one vocalist to another and from one Andrew Lloyd Webber acclaimed musical to the next. It was a welcome part of the show and when the cast pointed to him at the end of the night he received a hearty applause.
Go See This Show!
The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber has no intermission and runs a crisp 90 minutes. While Andrew Lloyd Webber has enough great and memorable songs for the show to double that run time, I think the hour and a half is perfect. The show is well-timed, well-paced, and well performed. If you are a fan of ALW this show is not to be missed. If you are unfamiliar with Sir Andrew, the talent on that stage is reason enough to get to the Eccles Theater.
When I spoke to David Osmond last week he mentioned that he felt like this show, with this particular cast could go on tour and do quite well. I have to agree with him. There’s not a weak spot in this show. The production value and the talent could easily fill theaters across the country. I’m actually trying to find a reason not to go back and see another performance myself. It was that good.
The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber will resume performances on Thursday May 13 and will run until May 15 with two shows on the 15th.
To purchase tickets or to see what other concerts are on sale at Eccles Theater click here!
Reviewed By: Kevin Rolfe @utahconcertreview