MAD ABOUT THE MUSICALS at BRIDLINGTON SPA. 31/5/16
It seemed apt that the last time Gareth Gates had visited The Spa, he’d done so with the cast of “Footloose.” Returning to Bridlington for the second time in four months, Bradford-born Gareth joined the “MATM” troupe, proving that he can sing with the best of them. Performing alongside Michael Courtney and three exceptional female vocalists, Gareth & Co. eased the crowd into proceedings with “One Night Only,” the backing band keeping perfect time.
What ensued was a rollercoaster show of breathtaking proportions, with some of the show-tunes performed as solos, and others as duets or group numbers. While Michael’s enviable experience in all things West End-related clearly overshadowed Gareth’s, they both shared a fantastic rapport, their on-stage banter forever raising laughs, not least when Michael kept talking over Gareth, only for Gareth to theatrically sulk, “I have enough trouble speaking as it is!” A self-deprecating reference to his stammer. Not that there was any hint of a stammer as he suavely “linked” songs, looking every inch a star in a sleek grey suit.
One of the most ambitious songs performed was Barry Manilow’s “Just Arrived” from “Copacabana,” a stunningly harmonised number involving all three females. Technically speaking, it was flawless, as was “Anything You Can Do” from “Annie Get Your Gun,” the male-female sparring providing welcome comic relief.
Presenting a well-balanced mix of songs from West End blockbusters right through to lesser-known stage-shows, the “MATM” cast dropped not a single dud note, all of the vocalists proving themselves to be at the very top of their game.
Closing the first half with a “musical jukebox” palette that served up a selection of songs from “We Will Rock You,” all five vocalists let loose on the title track, “Hammer to Fall” duly giving way to a thrilling rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Opening the second half of the show with three songs taken from “The Phantom of The Opera,” focus fell on Gareth as the “Music of The Night” melody stirred, his duet constituting an unforgettable show highlight. Michael then strutted back on stage, informing the crowd that “Phantom” was the second-highest grossing musical of all time. The highest? “The Lion King.”
A natural orator when he wasn’t singing, Michael had earlier asked if anybody knew with which musical Puccini was associated. Somebody shouted “Madama Butterfly,” in spite of it being a three-act opera. The correct answer was “Miss Saigon,” a musical set during the Vietnam War, which had been inspired by “Madama Butterfly.”
Gareth went on to sing the title track from “Starlight Express,” a futuristic spectacle set on roller skates! If only Gareth and Michael had stayed true to the original by skating onto the stage! Alas, they probably weren’t insured.
Icing the show in fine style, a mash-up of “Les Mis” songs had neck hairs standing to attention, the emotive “I Dreamed a Dream” sounding divine.
Gates really is worth his weight in gold, regardless of what Young-loyalists may say. But then every singer and musician on-stage deserved applauding, hence the Mexican wave of a standing ovation that coincided with the final note.