Theatre review: Michael Bruce – Apollo Theatre


In 2005 I was invited to Sir Elton John and David Furnish's ‘stag do' at an intimate club in Soho. I remember standing at the bar, wedged between Cilla Black and Orlando Bloom, whilst Eric McCormack apologised to me for rudely pushing in at the bar. “No problem,” I said smiling, having watched Will and Grace on DVD that very afternoon.

I was eventually handed a glass of wine before turning to watch an evening of remarkable entertainment. The hilarious Paul O'Grady took the reins and presented a specially-written cabaret that included turns from Bryan Adams, Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears, Take That and Lulu – there was even a near-naked strip from Lee Ryan of Blue fame.

Now if you're wondering where this is going or if you think I haven't name-dropped enough – please, be patient. As I stood at the bar witnessing this incredible occasion, I wanted to take everything in.

As Liz Hurley sipped champagne across the room, in another corner Ozzy and Sharon were rocking the night away and I had that unique feeling inside. I just knew that this would be a ‘one-off' night I'd remember forever. Geez, I even got to shake Sir Elton's hand.

Of course, a few years older now, I've been to many a star-studded evening, where the entertainment has, at best, satisfied. Yet I've longed to hold that rare sentiment ever since. That excitement – a ‘one-off' distinct and extraordinary moment – knowing you're witnessing something special.

On Sunday 1st November, as I took to my seat at the Apollo Theatre for Michael Bruce's very first West End concert, I don't think I was quite prepared for what lay ahead. There wasn't anything glitzy or glamorous so far, there was no sign of any paps on the pavement, no ‘celebrities' on the bill, absolutely no indication whatsoever that we would experience one of those ‘incredible nights to remember'.

For many, the name Michael Bruce will mean nothing of course. For now, that is. The 25 year old hails from Scotland and began to enter into our consciousness after winning the Notes for The Stage competition two years ago. His successful entry song Children was performed as part of the 2007 Christmas in New York concert at the Lyric Theatre and the rest they say, is history.

An evening of young talented West End performers celebrating the work of a young unknown composer with a spot on flair for musical theatre

Michael Bruce took to the stage on Sunday, comparing the entire concert sat at his piano, with conviction – and rightly so. This was an opportunity that needed to be seized by all – an evening of young talented West End performers celebrating the work of a young unknown composer with a spot on flair for musical theatre. It turned out to be an inspired mix.

Bruce's skill is an interesting one. His songs are fresh, catchy and engaging – with lyrics that move you to tears one minute and then send you into a side-splitting mess the next. This light and shade is what makes Michael Bruce's work unique – keeping his audience on their toes, alive and eager for more. If you discover a talent that throws your audience into a range of emotions in succession, you bloody well use it – and use it he does. Praise indeed to producers Neil Eckersley and Paul Spicer for nurturing that talent.

You can see his songs are just a joy to perform. Emily Tierney takes delight in her comical rendition of Continental from Hey Diddle Diddle and has the audience in fits. Other superb performances come from Sarah Lark and Sarah Earnshaw with I want a Man, and Daniel Boys and Jenna Lee James with Looking Back, a truly beautiful performance.

There was also an outstanding rendition of Someplace Beyond the Moon from newcomer Phoebe Fildes, who was the winner of a special YouTube competition. Take a look at her audition tape – it's something else.

But it was Julie Atherton's show stopping performance of In a Disney Way that drove the audience wild. Atherton's ability to sell a story-song with such wit and sincerity is utterly endearing.

So there we have it. The unassuming, yet hugely gifted Michael Bruce with the cream of future musical theatre bowing to a standing ovation. The future's bright. I left the venue glowing, having acquired one of those rare moments. And guess what, there was not a celebrity in sight. No, I tell a lie. Dame Judi Dench looked on mesmerized for the duration. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.


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