An Evening with Jason Robert Brown at the London Palladium

Jason Robert Brown
Jason Robert Brown at the London Palladium

Jason Robert Brown is an American musical theatre composer who has written shows such as Parade,13, The Last Five Years and Songs For A New World. I adore all of these musicals I’ve just named so when I heard about his concert I literally jumped at the chance to review it.

Appearing on stage with him was the 60 piece BBC concert orchestra conducted by Larry Blank as well as Jason Robert Brown’s own rhythm section. This addition really gave the night the extra buzz and it was wonderful to hear some of my favourite numbers played by this orchestra. Jason Robert Brown however didn’t stop there and also appearing was West End/Broadway legends Rachel Tucker, Betsy Wolfe and Norm Lewis. With this billing there sure was a lot to live up to!

Luckily with a catalogue like Jason Robert Brown has at his disposal, live up to it he did. Particular highlights were ‘Old Red Hills’ from Parade such by Jason Robert Brown himself and Carry Me Home from Songs For A New World, sung by Rachel Tucker. My main criticism would be that I would have liked to have seen more of these well known songs and less of the new material or the lesser known musicals. I found it odd for example that there were 3 songs from Honeymoon in Vegas yet only 1 from Parade and The Last Five Years. There was also a rather odd orchestral piece which opened Act 2 named ‘Trumpet of the Swan’ which whilst played beautifully could have been a better use of time with different material.

All of the guest singers provided impressive renditions of their songs. Betsy Wolfe sang The Flagmaker, 1775 from Songs For A New World, Anywhere but Here from Honeymoon In Vegas and finally I Can Do Better Than That from The Last 5 Years. I particularly enjoyed seeing Betsy Wolfe perform having heard so much about her, especially as one of the roles she is known for is Cathy from The Last 5 Years. Norm Lewis joined Betsy for Anywhere But Here and finished the Honeymoon in Vegas section with ‘Higher Love’ an Elvis style number. Despite Norm forgetting the lyrics and starting over his style was a nice contrast to Rachel and Betsy. Rachel Tucker not only sang Carry Me Home but joined Jason Robert Brown for a performance of disco inspired ‘Invisible’ a song he wrote for an 11 year old girl, who was in a wheelchair.

However Jason Robert Brown really was the star of the night. He not only played the piano but sang and at times conducted the orchestra, demonstrating just how talented he is.

His patter was slightly awkward and self-depreciating but I particularly enjoyed some of the insights behind some of the songs and would have liked a little more of this in places. His e of patter helped the evening feel more intimate despite the huge orchestra and impressive value that is The Palladium. He however wasn’t afraid to start over if he wasn’t happy with the entry, joke about the trouble he was having with his ear piece, ask the technical staff to adjust the light so it didn’t blind an audience member or even in one case record the whole number again so it would be perfect when broadcast on BBC2.

Overall it was an enjoyable evening which really showed Jason Robert Brown to be a composer well deserving of his Tony awards, although it could have been better with a slight adjustment to the set list.

If you liked this review you might also like my review of Songs For A New World and Musical Marathon.

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