There are so many musicals in the West End, each of which offers its audiences a unique entertainment experience. This variety is one of the best aspects of the London theatre scene, with each and every production tailored to meet any audience demand; from feel-good fun to tear-jerking melodrama. I enjoy a big razzle-dazzle spectacular as much as the next person, but I also appreciate the smaller and less-showy productions, the best of which has to be Once The Musical. The hit Broadway musical is unfortunately closing at the end of the month after a two year run at the Phoenix Theatre, and it is a huge loss for the West End as far as I’m concerned. It’s a show without big dance numbers, impressive special effects and complex set designs, but that simplicity was the appeal of Once. It’s a musical about the love of music, and is all the more powerful for its intimate, stripped-back staging. The cast are alone on that stage, with just their voices and instruments and with nothing to distract from their talent, which results in a performance that is raw, pure, and just beautiful. That’s what I loved about Once, as did many other people, and that’s why it will be sorely missed in the West End.
For those who appreciated Once for these reasons and enjoy seeing West End performers giving this type of stripped-back performance, I would draw to their attention an upcoming event towards the end of the month that echoes the musical’s love affair with music. Five days after Once sings its swan song, a group of West End performers will be gathering in Victoria, London for The West End Big Busk. This innovative event sees a line-up of musical theatre stars from various West End shows come together to each perform a 15-20 minute acoustic set, singing live and accompanied by acoustic instruments only.
The West End Big Busk is organised by Alex James Ellison, a singer/songwriter and actor who was most recently seen as Charlie in the critically acclaimed production of Whistle Down The Wind at the Union Theatre. He also played Eddie in the new musical Apartment 40C at the London Theatre Workshop and will be reprising the role when it transfers to the St James Studio next month. Additionally, he wrote and recorded his début EP, Duvet Days, in March 2014, which was released on the Auburn Jam label.
West End performers taking part in the live music event include Danny Colligan (The Book of Mormon), Jordan Lee Davies (Les Miserables, Molly Wobbly), Brian Gilligan (The Commitments), Jamie Muscato (Dogfight, Rock of Ages, Les Miserables, Love Story, Spring Awakening), Luke Newton (The Book of Mormon), Sophie Reid (Once), Cameron Sharp (Rock of Ages) and Jordan Shaw (Miss Saigon).
The West End Big Busk is presented in partnership with Live and Acoustic, a gigging platform for the West End community, used to showcase new writing and acoustic covers. It was founded in 2013 and originally based at the Karamel Club In Wood Green, but has now found a new home at the Union Theatre where it staged its most recent gigs on 8th February, to great success. Further events are in place there for 7th June and 19th July 2015.
Helping the homeless is a cause Ellison is passionate about, which is why all money raised from The West End Big Busk will go to a local homeless charity, The Passage. The London-based charity organization’s mission is ‘to provide resources which encourage, inspire and challenge homeless people to transform their lives’, inspired in its work by the life and teachings of the Christian reformer St Vincent De Paul, who co-founded the Daughters of Charity in 1633. The ‘action speaks louder than words’ ethos of The Passage has committed the organization to provide a hands-on service to vulnerable people. It’s all too easy to ignore the problem of homelessness, but every person living on the streets has a story about how they ended up there, and for many, they both need and want help to get off the streets and re-start their lives. My sister often takes part in homeless walks, in which she and a group of other like-minded people meet London’s homeless and give them gifts of food and warm clothing, and talk to them, finding out the story behind their situation. Some people’s stories are heartbreaking, so if a charity like The Passage can help them turn their lives around, they need all the support possible.
The West End Big Busk is being held at Cardinal Place in Victoria on Thursday 26th March 2015 (from 11am onwards). Those who attend can donate in person, or there is also a Just Giving page online. The live event will also be covered by West End Video, with the footage used to increase awareness of the charity and its work. Follow-up events are being planned, so for those who can’t make it down to Victoria this time, there’ll be a second chance for you with the second West End Big Busk which returns there on 11th June 2015.
It’s a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the talent of the West End in its purest form, and also support a very worthy cause.
You can follow The West End Big Busk on Twitter: @WestEndBigBusk
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 17th March 2015