It was such a delight to welcome back to the stage musical theatre royalty in Debra Byrne. It was the mid ‘80s when she appeared in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats and a decade later she followed that up with another star turn in the maestro’s Sunset Boulevard. So, it seems only fitting that she should reprise solo numbers from those shows in The Music of the Night, which celebrates the songs of Lloyd Webber.
Byrne first sashays onto the stage in a beautiful, elegant and colourful flowing gown and later appears in another eye-catching cream and light blue ensemble. She has lost none of her presence or stage craft and vocally she remains strong. I simply wish we saw and heard more of her.
Byrne also contributes to the closing chorus tune among a couple of dozen drawn from The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, Jesus Christ Superstar, Starlight Express, Cats and Sunset Boulevard. Those shows along with Song and Dance, The Wizard of Oz, By Jeeves, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Aspects of Love, Whistle Down the Wind and Evita.
To give credence only to Byrne, though, would be to sell short the surfeit of young talent that constitutes the lion’s share of the program. Given what I was privy to, the future of musical theatre in this country is in very good hands. The opening number, The Music of the Night, performed by Raphael Wong, is a case in point. What a phenomenal rendition it was. Quite magnificent. The timber in his voice, the depth, the maturity and the feeling are something special. It set the tone for an evening of great entertainment.
Wong is one of nine younger cast members who perform a series of solos, duets and chorus pieces, with the latter particularly the order of the day in the second half of the show. All are talented and each has their time to shine. Among the standouts for me were Andy Conaghan, Christopher Scalzo, Genevieve Kingsford and Bianca Bruce. Others include Madison Green, Cherine Peck, Caitlin Spears and Tod Strike. The nine harmonise magnificently.
Herod’s Song from JC Superstar is given fine treatment by Andy, who backs up with Till I Hear You Sing from Love Never Dies and a couplet with Caitlin from Sunset Boulevard. Chris and Bianca have heaps of fun with Macavity from Cats and the impact of Bianca’s rendition of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina wasn’t lost on me either. One of my favourites was Love Changes Everything from Aspects of Love, performed by Chris, with company backing. The purity of Genevieve’s voice made Think of Me from Phantom another highlight, of which there were many.
Some of the numbers are cheeky, others somber and still others uplifting, which allows the performers to mix it up. It is a grand program, indeed, that has been put together by director Theresa Borg and Musical Director and Arranger Stephen Gray. Accompanying the artistes is a four-piece band, which features Gary Norman on electric and acoustic guitars, Nathan Post on electrical guitar and double bass, and John Clark on drums and percussion, with Stephen on keyboard. The backdrop is a couple of hundred shimmering light bulbs against a jet black background, given the appropriate appearance of a stary, stary night, for that – indeed – is what I was witness to.
Hats off to Caitlin Spears for putting together the show. We need more of it, even a return season perhaps? The Music of the Night is playing at Chapel off Chapel until 16th May, 2021.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- CATS (Young Australian Broadway Chorus)
- 21 Chump Street (Chapel Off Chapel) – theatre review
- My Fair Lady (Regent) – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.