A Night at the Royal Albert Hall

Date 11th April 2024
Society Cloud Nine Musical Theatre Group
Venue The Academy, Selsey
Type of Production Concert
Director Rebecca Townsend
Musical Director Simon Townsend
Choreographer Amelia Aburrow


Author: Mark Donalds

What an amazing history our national treasure, the Royal Albert Hall, has had since it opened in 1871. If only walls could speak, what a tale they would tell. Built to commemorate the life of Queen Victoria’s beloved husband, Prince Albert, it has born witness to a huge variety of different events and, after all these years later, is still in demand and as popular a venue as ever.

The ever-suave Malcolm Graves acted as our compere and guide for the evening, assisted by members of the cast, introducing a wide-ranging and eclectic mix of musical pieces through the ages. What a task it must have been for writer and Director Rebecca Townsend deciding what to include, but her extensive research has produced a cleverly thought-out concert of musical glimpses of acts that have performed there over the years, interspersed with some fascinating facts and figures. Who knew, for example, that the foundation stone Queen Victoria laid is under a seat in the middle of the stalls?

Just an empty stage with a few props was all that was needed, ensuring that numbers moved swiftly from one to the other. Clever lighting (Charles Townsend) and some impressive images projected on the back wall set the scene nicely. Costumes throughout (Rebecca Townsend and Maddi Butler-Townsend) were sumptuous and always appropriate for the number. Sound too was excellent – we heard every word – and the backing tracks were of good quality.

Full cast numbers were all superb – the standard of singing was excellent, especially in the finale to Act 1 with Beethoven being given the full gospel and rap treatment. “Starmaker” which opened Act 2 was sublime, and it was lovely to be given the chance to join in with the Act 2 Finale, Last Night of the Proms-style. Choreography (Amelia Aburrow) too was great, filling the stage with perfectly executed movement.

I can only briefly mention some of the highlights of the show for me. “Three Little Maids” was beautifully sung and costumed; Keith Barnes’ rich and silky voice was perfect for “New York New York” and “The Good Life”; “Seasons of Love” was simply but powerfully presented by the whole cast; Louise Latchford was perfect with “Tell Me It’s Not True” – so seldom sung; Maddi Butler-Townsend stunned us with “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and made us laugh with “Diva’s Lament” – both acted as well as sung - and Kimberley Genziani was spot-on with “Downtown” and “Cheek to Cheek”. “You Raise Me Up” sung by Simon Townsend was the best I’ve ever heard it performed, so emotional. Highlight of my evening was “Ex Wives” by Maddi, Niamh, Hannah, Amanda, Kimberley and Louise – you totally smashed it!

What a talented group the children from Arabesque School of Performing Arts are! They enhanced every number they were in, and their performances of “Swan Lake” and “Newsies” were outstanding, with some strong, clear singing in the latter.

What a fantastic evening! So many old favourites to enjoy with a few I’d never heard before to add sparkle, all performed to the very highest level. At the start, Malcolm invited us to join the Cloud Nine family for the evening, and yes it really did feel like that – warm and welcoming, like a big hug!

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