Review By Rowan Brunt
Musical theatre enthusiasts absolutely delight in this concert style piece Do You Hear the People Sing? in the Concert Hall of the iconic Sydney Opera House featuring the legacy of composing duo Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. If the title or the duos names are not ringing a bell yet, the concert features the music of the mega-musicals Les Miserable and Miss Saigon, sans barricade and helicopter, as well as less known pieces such as The Pirate Queen, Martin Guerre & La Revolution Francaise. The show is accomplished by an ensemble of Australian vocalists and a 24 piece orchestra.
This style of a show could easily just be a greatest hits countdown but what makes it so special are a few elements such as the stars that lead the show: Michael Ball, John Owen-Jones, Rachel Tucker, Bobby Fox, David Harris, Sooha Kim, Susie Mathers, and Marie Zamora. All of these singers are internationally renowned performers and are part of the Boublil & Schonberg legacy in their own right. A few of the cast are original cast members, some played roles in the Australian productions, some are still performing roles internationally. They really are the giants of this work.
What made the piece continually engaging was the interconnecting dialogue and conversation to the audience. The soloists shared personal stories of their journey with the roles they’d played, spoke about the writing process and development of certain songs across production history and spoke to the legacy of the work. We also got little insights into rewrites of songs for future adaptations that have upcoming revivals.
And the singing!
Many of the songs are very familiar to the audience but they are done at such world class standards with each soloists having a moment of their own.
Sooha Kim, having performed Kim from Miss Saigon in the 2016 Japanese productions and 2017-2019 UK and International tour, has a stunning delicacy to her performance, not only vocally soaring but so engaged in the text that regardless of the concert context transports the audience with her. Her rendition of “I’d Give my life for you” from Miss Saigon, was gut wrenching and left the audience captivated.
The Pirate Queen performed in Act II, was headlined by Rachel Tucker. Tucker has performed across the West End and Broadway in shows such as Come from Away & Wicked. Tucker performed “Woman” as the title role and did so with such power and prowess it was as if she was calling to arms every individual in the concert hall, challenging what a woman should do and shattering their expectations.
Michael Ball and John Scott-Owens are both legends of Les Miserable but for this concert there was a trio arrangement of “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserable, accompanied by David Harris that truly showcased the brilliance of the writing and composition of this work. The song so delicate with the male tenors transcends in this arrangement and really allows Scott-Owens in the bridge to just shoot for the heavens.
Other highlights were: Bobby Fox as a true showman dancing and thrusting through “The American Dream”, “Master of the House” and a Irish jig, Marie Zamora singing in French “On My Own” so embodied and touching in her performance and Susie Smithers as radiant, heavenly Cosette just absolute perfection in the final note of “A Heart Full of Love”.
The piece did have some troubles with the lighting design and operation on this date of performance with a few soloists in darkness for a little long and some design choices that had side lighting causing actors faces to be half shrouded.
The show is a showcase of the French writing duo and though for the musical theatre nerds out there it is a overwhelm of everything we love, the concert is also very accessible for anyone new to musical theatre.