LEA SALONGA and BERNADETTE PETERS headlines a hugely very entertaining musical in Stephen Sondheim’s “OLD FRIENDS” at London’s Gielgud Theatre
By Oliver Carnay
I thought I’m done after watching three plays at West End — HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, SUNSET BLVD, and HAMILTON, but I was so curious to watch Ms. Lea Salonga with Bernadette Peters at the Gielgud Theatre for their Stephen Sondheim’s musical “OLD FRIENDS,” so three days before leaving, I immediately got a ticket on a Tuesday (September 26) .. and I’m glad I did!
This musical revue was originally a one-night tribute to Stephen Sondheim in 2022 and this time, Cameron Macintosh is devising and producing at West End for a limited run (preview started September 16 and will open on October 3 through January 6).
Lea Salonga did not disappoint me! She was very impressive, comical in the “Sweeney Todd” number with Jeremy Secomb, her versatility showed, speaking in a British accent to a “T” and very spontaneous. She was shining in every solo number and belting out high notes showing her vocal prowess (a standing ovation for her breathtaking rendition of “Somewhere” — I was so proud of her!). She was serious and commanding onstage. Lea returned in West End in 1989 to reprise her Kim role in Miss Saigon, and after 27 years, this is the first time she is returning as a headliner with 2-time Tony winner Bernadette Peters (who at 75 years old, is still adding feathers on her shoulder having an illustrious career onstage for decades). This production makes her debut at the West End.
Another Filipina, Christine Allado, who is also making waves in West End theatre scenes and other major events is also in the cast. She was very accommodating (called me “kabayan” when she saw me waiting for her backstage) and took photos with me. Follow her on IG @christineallado
The amazing roster of talented performers included Clare Burt, Janie Dee, Christine Allado, Damian Humbley, Bradley Jaden, Bonnie Langford, Gavin Lee, Jason Pennycooke, Joanna Riding, Jeremy Secomb, Jac Yarrow, Marley Fenton, and Beatrice Penny-Toure.
There were 39 songs presented with great production design and amazing direction from Matthew Bourne, choreography with Stephen Mear. The Orchestra conducted by Alfonso Casado Trigo was fabulous, with musical supervision by Stephen Brooker, musical arrangements by Stephen Metcalfe, perfect lighting design by Warren Letton, and sound design by Mick Potter.
Thank you to my brother, Dino, and my niece, Dina (I left them at Caffe Concerto and waited for two and a half hours while I’m watching “Old Friends” lol!)!