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The Oliviers in Concert review at Royal Festival Hall, London – ‘terrific’

Scarlett Strallen performs with the BBC Concert Orchestra at The Oliviers in Concert at the Royal Festival Hall. Photo: BBC/Mark Allan Scarlett Strallen performs with the BBC Concert Orchestra at The Oliviers in Concert at the Royal Festival Hall. Photo: BBC/Mark Allan
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The Olivier Awards will this year mark their 40th year and they could begin by awarding themselves an award for best pre-awards show with this celebratory, one-night event of music from some Olivier winning performers.

There were some happy juxtapositions with Petra Siniawski — from the original London cast of the first Olivier winning best musical A Chorus Line forty years ago — paired with Scarlett Strallen from the 2013 London Palladium revival for the always moving What I did for Love, or Maria Friedman and Daniel Evans, stars of separate award winning outings of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, paired together. Friedman also did fine work with Losing my Mind from Follies, making Sondheim the single most represented composer of the night, as well as a gorgeously sung version of the title song for Alan Menken’s Beauty and the Beast.

There were a couple of intriguing role swaps for Michael Ball, who once originated the role of Marius in Les Miserables and now rendered Javert’s great anthem Stars with heartfelt bravura. He also won his second Olivier playing the title role in Sweeney Todd, but now got to sing Tobias’s haunting Not While I’m Around instead. Ball was also in fine voice for a return to a role he has played — Raoul in Phantom, joined by Strallen for All I Ask of You.

Also returning, 38 years after she created the part, was Elaine Paige as Eva Peron for an emphatic version of Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina, while more recent winners like Katie Brayben and John Dagleish showed their pop mettle with Carole King’s Beautiful and Ray Davies’  Waterloo Sunset respectively.

Clive Rowe also recreated his 1997 Olivier winning turn as Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls with a rollicking Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat. You could argue about omissions – why no Cats or Blood Brothers? — but for one night, the Oliviers rocked the Royal Festival Hall.

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A terrific start to the 40th anniversary year of the Oliviers which gave musical theatre fans much to enjoy.