Hey, Mr. Producer! The Musical World of Cameron Mackintosh

****

Reviewed by: Martin Gray

Many years ago I was at the first night of the musical Moby Dick. The flop was bigger than the titular whale, but I did get to stand next to producer Cameron Mackintosh at the after show party. Obviously a lovely fellow, it's no surprise that in 1998 the stars turned out at London's Lyceum Theatre for a tribute show, marking his first 30 years as a theatrical producer.

And when I say stars, I'm not kidding. If you're into musical theatre, there's no way you'd want to miss a night featuring such artists as Ellen Greene, Elaine Paige, Julia McKenzie, John Barrowman, Jonathan Pryce, Colm Wilkinson, Hugh Jackman, host Julie Andrews and many, many more. It even managed to reunite the stars of Side By Side by Sondheim - David Kernan, Millicent Martin and the aforementioned McKenzie - for one last run through Stephen's songbook.

And it was this section that is the highlight of a rather splendid show, as the three originals are joined by Judi Dench, Bernadette Peters, Michael Ball, Lea Salonga, Ruthie Henshall, Maria Freidman and a whole bunch of divas (never thought I'd call Su Pollard a diva) for such numbers as Send In The Clowns, You Could Drive A Person Crazy, Losing My Mind and Being Alive.

There are other moments to treasure, mind, such as Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber singing Mackintosh-centric versions of Clowns ("Isn't he rich . . .") and Music Of The Night; the brilliant Tom Lehrer presenting Poisoning Pigeons In The Park in his first stage performance in 25 years and Hugh Jackman's testosterone-fuelled Oh What A Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma!

The shows featured include everything from Godspell and Salad Days to the mega hits still running today, such as Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and Phantom Of The Opera, by way of Little Shop Of Horrors, Oliver, Anything Goes and loads more. Especially nice is that many of the original stars turned out to reprise old roles - Brian Blessed, Elaine Paige and Paul Nicholas for (the execrable) Cats, Colm Wilkinson, Michael Ball and Lea Salonga for Les Miserables, Jonathan Pryce for My Fair Lady and Miss Saigon. And none of them has lost it, giving us turns to treasure.

Mr Producer himself turns up at the end to sing a wee song, and while it sounds cringe worthy and self-congratulatory, the evening did raise a lot of money for charity, as well as introduce people to shows they may have forgotten, or never known, and Mackintosh is just adorable in a kilt. I only wish I'd tried chatting him up at that party . . .

The DVD's not perfect, though - OK, I can forgive the lack of extras, as extras on a disc such as this are never going to be much more than luvviedom personified, but would it really have been so tough to add a few captions telling us what song's coming up, from what show and who's performing? I like playing "Isn't that...?" as much as the next theatrical tart, but it doesn't half distract from just sitting back and enjoying the presentation.

Nevertheless, this is a gem for lovers of great show tunes. Just fast forward through the Cats bits.

Reviewed on: 16 Nov 2005
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Celebration of 30 years of musical theatre, with Julie Andrews and a galaxy of stars.
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