JASON ROBERT BROWN | London, The London Palladium

Tony Award-winning musical theatre legend Jason Robert Brown, 47, isn’t just an incomparable writer of music and lyrics, but also a great singer and cabaret performer in his own right. With the 60-strong BBC concert orchestra behind him and a host of special guests from Broadway, this was a very special one-night-only in the sold-out London Palladium.

The standing ovation started during Act 2, for special guest West End star Rachel Tucker. Her stratospheric belt on “Flying Home” from Songs For A New World (1997), with enriched backing vocals and orchestrations, blew us all away. The BBC concert orchestra also shone in “The Flagmaker, 1775”, from the same show, given new emotional and operatic power. Broadway star Betsy Wolfe sang it phenomenally, as she did “We Can Do Better” from Brown’s other hit show, The Last Five Years (2001).

It was also fantastic to see highlights from Honeymoon In Vegas (2015) given full orchestral power. Broadway royalty Norm Lewis seemed unsure of the lyrics, despite an autocue, but got a great response for his performance as leader of The Flying Elvises. Moments of solo quiet, including a beautiful encore by Brown about a 50th wedding anniversary, showed him off as a wonderful pianist and soulful interpreter of his own work.

It wasn’t all gold-standard: excerpts from Bridges Of Madison County (2014) seemed overlong, and lacking in orchestral interest. Where Brown evokes 1970s Billy Joel brilliantly, some new songs felt a bit bland, especially those going for a contemporary pop feel. All in all though, a very special evening.

The recording will be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 Friday Night Is Music Night.

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