Probably best known to a wider audience for writing all the new songs and additional material for the stage version of Mary Poppins, composer George Stiles and lyricist/librettist Anthony Drewe have consistently produced charming and imaginative work since their first piece, Tutankhamun, was staged in 1984. Since then, they have won a large and affectionate following worldwide with their shows Just So, Peter Pan - A Musical Adventure and the Olivier Award-winning Honk!.
Often Sunday night galas such as this are hastily put together, but it was apparent Stiles and Drewe - onstage throughout the evening - along with a sophisticated creative team had put a great deal of thought into devising this one.
A splendid cast, joined by a chorus of Arts Ed graduates, brought to life songs from those productions already mentioned, plus material from several projects the songwriters have in the pipeline. In fact, most of Act II was made up of compositions from one such work-in-progress, Soho Cinders, a contemporary fairytale featuring a love triangle between a candidate for London Mayor, his fianceé and a gay man. In the latter role, Gareth Gates proved his potential as a theatre performer.
Among many other highlights were James Gillan and Claire Moore’s offerings from Peter Pan, Alison Jiear and Joanna Riding’s brilliant performances of two cabaret numbers and Stiles and Drewe themselves completing the evening with the truly timeless Does the Moment Ever Come?
Slick direction from Paul Spicer, combined with fine choreography and a super band, made it clear Stiles and Drewe have plenty more to offer the world of musical theatre beyond this anniversary. Proceeds from the show went towards nurturing new musical theatre writing via the organisation Mercury Musical Developments.