The Theatre Channel – Episode 8 – Stephen Schwartz

If you are new to the Theatre Channel, like me then the description MTV for musicals sums it up perfectly. I’m not sure which rock I have been living under in order to have missed the first 7 episodes and I am hanging my head in suitable shame now, especially if they are all this joyful.

This Episode of the Theatre Channel is produced in partnership with the Theatre Cafe and Park Theatre. Episode 8 looks at the songs of Stephen Schwartz. They are all songs where Schwartz wrote both the music and the lyrics and they are performed by the likes of Alice Fearn, Louise Dearman, Christine Allado, Jo Eaton-Kent, Melanie La Barrie and more. Each of the numbers contain the same vibe as the show they originally come from but equally work beautifully on their own.

Schwartz has written an incredible amount of music so how they narrowed it down must have been no mean feat. We were told afterwards that this was a collaborative process and one that they got right! We have a huge variety of numbers such as the iconic ‘Meadowlark,’ from The Bakers Wife to ‘Prepare Ye/Beautiful City’ from Godspell and from ‘It’s An Art’ from Working to ‘I’m Not That Girl’ from Wicked.

The show was directed and choreographed by Fabian Aloise and as Schwartz himself explains his choreography always tells a story and that’s exactly what Aloise did in this episode. The more upbeat numbers where dance was involved never felt like there was dance just for the sake of it. Throughout the programme Schwartz narrates moments, these are insights into the songs, into the shows or sometimes about his process. All of them are interesting and well considered, fitting perfectly into the flow of the song.

The show is cast brilliantly, and I have to shout out to the Cafe 5, made up of Anthony Starr, Danny Becker, Kayleigh Thadani, M-Jae Cleopatra and Vicki Lee Taylor who dance, belt and harmonise their way through numerous numbers in the show!

The show also had some very strong camera work. Often when watching filmed theatrical shows I struggle as I want to look elsewhere and feel restrained by the camera but I never felt this way through this Episode. The camera in fact felt like it enhanced moments, from being able to see the likes of Louise Dearman’s emotions up close during Meadowlark to getting to experience the moments of choreography that should be the focal point of that moment, especially in ‘Prepare Ye.’

One thing the show embraced was diversity, some of the songs were gender flipped (Melanie La Barrie singing Prepare Ye for example) and there was also a huge amount of racial diversity. Schwartz also embraced trans performs and clearly showed that they are not a gimmick. Jo Eaton-Kent performed ‘I’m Not That Girl’ and rather than playing this from the trans angle it was beautifully told from the original love triangle angle, it just so happened that it was sung by a trans performer.

If you are keen for your theatre fix but don’t want to leave your sofa then The Theatre Channel is the answer, maybe even sandwich it in between a trip to Wicked and The Prince of Egypt to really OD on Schwartz!

If you want a sneak peak of the Q&A with Stephen Schwartz head to my Instagram to watch my latest reel!

If you like this review of The Theatre Channels latest episode, you might also like my review of Pippin, The Prince of Egypt and Back to the Future.

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