Sheridan Smith is hosting Musicals: The Greatest Show.Twitter/@sheridansmith1

The Sound of Music was the first live musical I saw at London’s Palladium, at the age of six. After years of watching Julie Andrews’ classic film, my parents took me to see Connie Fisher’s 2007 revival of the show in one of the world’s greatest theatres. Sitting high up on the fringes of the grand circle, I squinted down at the action on the distant stage. To borrow words from ‘Hamilton: An American Musical’, I was elated by the simple fact that finally, “I got to be in the room where it (read: live theatre) happened”.

“Musicals provide an incredible range of stories which are easy to engage with through their catchy and powerful tunes.”

This is something we’ve been severely devoid of this year – the buzz of seeing a live show. The rush to buy performances with your favourite musical theatre stars, the anticipation during the months before and then the sheer delight when the entr’acte plays and curtains rise on show night. At a time when the shows can’t go on, the BBC are inviting us to an exclusive night of musical performances recorded at The Palladium. Musicals: The Greatest Show brings us a blend of iconic musical hits – from recent releases to long standing classics.

The musical concert will be a chance for viewers at home to watch performances from fresh talent off Broadway and the West End. The theatre industry was massively impacted by wavering COVID restrictions, meaning many new shows had to close and haven’t opened since. This includes the West End stage adaptation of DreamWorks’ movie musical ‘The Prince of Egypt’, which closed merely a month after opening. Although few of us have had the opportunity to watch the entirety of the show, the radio recording of the concert will feature a performance of the famous song ‘When You Believe’, sung by cast members Christine Allado (Peggy in the original London cast of ‘Hamilton’) and Alexia Khadime (Eponine in ‘Les Miserables’ and Elphaba in ‘Wicked’). Other shows didn’t even get the chance to open such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new ‘Cinderella’ which will be showcased in the BBC concert.

“With such a wide range of performances, there’ll be a song for everyone – whether you’re in the mood for a laugh or a cry.”

Accompanying them will be a plethora of performances from West End and Broadway royalty. Some of the most well-loved stars from the musical world will perform the songs they made legendary. This includes Lea Salonga performing Les Miserables’ ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, Ramin Karimloo comfortably in the role of Phantom with ‘The Music of the Night’ and Kerry Ellis singing ‘Defying Gravity’. These are the voices we never tire of hearing and the musicals which audiences see again and again, making them some of the longest-running shows in the world.

Many of us aren’t lucky enough to go to the theatre multiple times a year; with ticket prices often costing more than £50, it’s a huge expense for students and those on low incomes. However, this experience can be easily substituted by a great musical movie (many of which exist out there!). The new concert will include hits from ‘The Greatest Showman’, ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Mamma Mia!’. While many of these shows originated as stage musicals, it was the film adaptations that have firmly placed them into popular culture. Musical movies are important ways of making theatre more accessible and this gratitude was more recently observed after Hamilton’s Disney+ release during last year’s lockdown. 2021 brings many new exciting screen adaptations, one of which being the West End success ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ following a teenage boy who aspires to be a drag queen. Layton Williams, who played the title role in London’s West End, will perform ‘The Wall in My Head’ from the show.

“One-off concerts such as these are reminders of the immense power of musicals to stand the test of time and captivate huge audiences, which fill theatre seats year on year.”

Musicals persist as fun, uplifting and original ways of storytelling. They animate stories from history and literature to create a tangible and emotional musical experiences. From ‘SIX’, to ‘Wicked’ to ‘Dear Evan Hansen’, musicals provide an incredible range of stories which are easy to engage with through their catchy and powerful tunes. The BBC have clearly tapped into one of the nation’s favourite forms of art. Musicals: The Greatest Show is a moment of appreciation to those who work in the theatre industry – an industry which has suffered so much in the absence of regular live performances. One-off concerts such as these are reminders of the immense power of musicals to stand the test of time and captivate huge audiences, which fill theatre seats year on year. This will be a perfect opportunity to wind down with the family after yet another week in lockdown. With such a wide range of performances, there’ll be a song for everyone – whether you’re in the mood for a laugh or a cry. After all, we could all do with a laugh and cry at the moment.


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Musicals: The Greatest Show will be available to watch on BBC One this Sunday at 19:40. All the performances have been recorded and released as part of a show for BBC Radio 2 hosted by Sheridan Smith, available to listen to on BBC Sounds.