Last year, I was supposed to be one of the performers at the final evening of the Lytham Festival. Titled “West End Proms,” the evening would have consisted of performances by many of Britain’s best performers singing songs from musical theater.
However, due to the very strong winds that threatened to damage (or even destroy) equipment, not to mention pose a danger to the performers, the show was canceled. We had gotten around five songs into the evening when the festivities were called off. We talked about returning the following year to try again.
And try again we did.
Most of the performers from last year—including Collabro, Jo Appleby, Jodie Prenger, Claire Sweeney, Jon Lee, Lucie-Mae Sumner and Ruthie Henshall—were able to make the return engagement, as well. There were new additions in Luke McCall and Beau Dermott.
I headed to London first, intending to meet up with my manager, Josh Pultz, and see a couple of West End shows. However, on Tuesday morning, the day of my travel, I started feeling sick, and as the plane ride wore on, I was getting worse.
I couldn’t swallow any food, so I just tried to get as much rest as I could, doing not much more than using the bathroom. I settled into my hotel and tried to rest some more, hoping the pain would go away.
Josh, at my request, had already inquired about doctors I could see in a hurry, and the next morning, on the recommendation of our friend Matt Eastaugh, the company manager of Disney’s “Aladdin,” headed to Dr. Miles Christie.
He took a look at my throat (it was tonsillitis), checked my lungs (all clear), my pulse rate (quite elevated, probably from the infection), and my temperature (above 38 degrees Centigrade). He then placed me on a course of antibiotics, which would hopefully get me in shape for Sunday’s proms performance.
The worst part was missing the shows I had intended to see: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2” and “Half a Sixpence.”
On Friday, Josh and I took the train to Birmingham to catch “Miss Saigon,” currently at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Met by two members of the company office, Neil and Sasha, we were escorted to our seats and got settled in. I had seen this version of the show a few times before, so I knew what to expect as far as the production was concerned.
What I didn’t count on was how floored I would be with the talent onstage.
The company, led by our very own Red Concepcion as the Engineer, was strong and precise. Most impressive was 17-year-old Joreen Bautista (who played Kim) and Vinny Coyle (Chris).
The astounding part is that Joreen and Vinny haven’t even played that many shows, but on that stage, they were obviously very prepared. I believed everything that was happening between them, and most notable with Vinny, there is kindness and the purest kind of love every time he looked in Joreen’s direction. Gerald Santos as Thuy is strong, and I anticipate he will only get better.
Now, back to Red. The greatest part about his interpretation is that it’s purely his own. I’ve seen this role played by many people. In Red’s Engineer, there is the devious, desperate, will-do-anything-to-further-his-own-agenda pimp who sells girls for money to take him to fulfill his American Dream, but nothing ever feels over the top, oversold or overdone. He’s calibrated the jokes and ad libs to still offer humor without anything feeling gratuitous, and his singing and dancing are in fine form.
After Birmingham, it was on to Lytham St. Anne’s to get settled and rest up for the next day. Following the goings-on of the year before, all I prayed for was that the winds would not pick up.
I should’ve also prayed for no rain, because after our afternoon sound check, it began to fall and kept falling throughout the night. To get an idea of just how bad it got, there are videos of the evening’s performances on YouTube. But there was no way this night was not pushing through.
Turned out to be quite the exciting show! Seeing and feeling the love coming from that soaked-to-the-bone crowd served to give us energy and warmth. Regardless of how wet the front area of the stage got, it didn’t matter. The show would go on this year. To be fair, the winds didn’t pick up, much to our collective relief.
At the end of it all, we all felt exhilarated that we completed the show, and the audience met each performance with cheers and numerous standing ovations.
To everyone at the Lytham Festival, thanks again for the invitation to come back. What an extraordinary night it turned out to be.
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