Back in the autumn of 2020, a series of live concerts featuring musical theatre performers were set up in the style of West End Live, only this time audiences were in and around their cars, and honked approval instead of clapping hands in applause. It was an odd time, where we saw a glimpse of normality out of isolation, albeit in your own little metal bubble.
This first concert featured Layton Williams. Shan Ako, Maiya Quansah Breed and Shanay Holmes and grew out of the West End Musical Brunch (a Black-led musical company).
The drive-in concept is the first in the UK: our weather and spaces do not lend themselves to watching entertainment in car parks. However, the concerts quickly sold out and, until now, you couldn’t get near to have a look.
From the 19th February, every week, a new concert will be released, giving you the chance to replicate the experience from your home (or perhaps, even your car!). You get nearly two hours of entertainment, with all the atmosphere and emotion of a live performance, and a sense of co-conspiracy with your fellow viewers.
“The theatre needs you right now”, says Quansah Breed, and cars raise their musical notes in support. This is not just in support of The Show Must Go On but also for the visibility of Black performers, at this time still very much in the shadow of the George Floyd incident and Black Lives Matter.
The choice of songs are uplifting and emotional, and very quickly you can settle in and enjoy these performances without thinking about all the closed theatres, the out-of-work freelancers, and deferred shows. Just for a moment.
These performers and shows are currently silenced, their sets standing empty, their lights switched off. It’s been nearly a year, and although we have a roadmap promised for economic recovery next week, the future is looking precarious. Seeing these performances, and their born digital cousins, has been a lifeline for many, and the support of audiences is crucial.
The location is The Drive-In, Troubadour Meridian Water, N18. A large space, safe for performers, crew and audience. There are moments in the bits in-between the songs where hope now seems a little naive (talk of British tours in 2021), but we have to keep the faith.
These performers are top-notch; these songs are great; and although this is simply a record of a live event with no flashy filming or effects, you get your money’s worth.
So kick your shoes off, clear the floor, get yourself a drink of choice, and get ready for a West End Musical party. This concert is playing nightly until the 21 February, further instalments follow each Friday for the next four weeks.
You can purchase tickets for this or the other concerts in the West End Musical Drive-In series at https://www.stream.theatre/season/43. Each show costs £15 plus booking fee, and gives access to a specific performance date and time.