There aren’t many 80 year olds whose birthday celebration involves Bollywood dancing, rollerskates and semi-nudity. But the Apollo Victoria’s 80th Birthday Gala Performance included it all.
Last night, the theatre, currently the London home to hit musical Wicked, hosted a star-studded cast to ensure the celebrations went down in theatre history.
I’ve admitted in a previous post to being a geek – but when I read online that the cast of Starlight Express would be reuniting a whole new geek bubbled up inside – I grew up listening to the original cast recordings, I know all the words, all the versions – and my goodness I wasn’t going to miss a chance to sing along with the stars of my childhood.
Aside from a few technical hiccups, the one-night-only performance was spectacular. The first act saw the cast of Wicked (with a few musical-theatre friends) guide the audience though the Apollo’s history – from cinema to live act venue – on a rollercoaster of ballads and high-energy dance. The cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert were transformed into the Supremes (those guys have some amazing legs!), the Jersey Boys performed a fantastic medley of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and Sharon D Clarke (the original Killer Queen (We Will Rock You)) belted out a fantastic Gladys Knight. Even Bucks Fizz reunited to bring the theatre into the 80s – complete with a skirt-ripping Making Your Mind Up.
But it was the second act that we die-hard theatre fans had been waiting for. With a sequined Christopher Biggins as host, we were treated to performances by Wayne Sleep and James Fox, and some big musical numbers from some of the shows that had graced the Apollo’s stage.
The one let down of the night were the performances of the Bombay Dreams numbers – clearly the orchestra pit was not large enough to accommodate sitars and the other instruments needed to create the Bollywood sound, meaning the performers mimed along to a backing track… the dance routines were stunning, but this tarnished the gloss of the evening for me.
And Starlight Express? Fan-bloody-tastatic. I don’t care that Greaseball slipped over during his solo in Rolling Stock, he was still note perfect even when his arms were pin-wheeling.
It must have been like returning home for a lot of the original cast. Gone were the tubes and piping that made up their costumes in the 80s, 90s and 00s, this performance saw the casts skating and singing together is suits and ties – paying their respects to the birthday girl that had been the musical’s home for 7,461 performances.
It was a night of laughter, singing, dancing, clapping and cheering. The Apollo Victoria’s Charity Gala Performance was a fantastic trip down memory lane, whilst showcasing some very current West End talent.
Happy Birthday old girl.