An Afternoon with the Sondheim Society – Alex Parker & Friends

Alex Parker

Musical director and composer Alex Parker was joined by a host of friends for An Afternoon with the Sondheim Society at the Leicester Square Theatre

An Afternoon with the Sondheim Society and… Alex Parker & Friends at the Leicester Square Theatre, London.

For a young man of 23, multi-talented Alex Parker has packed plenty into his burgeoning career. But you ain’t heard nothing yet.

This fiercely ambitious musical director-pianist-composer’s credits already include a concert version of A Little Night Music, seen last year in Guildford and coming to London’s Palace Theatre in January, MD work on Stephen Ward, The Pajama Game, Putting It Together and Soho Cinders, and a big hand in recent revues God and Everything’s Coming Up Roses.

He has also written his first musical comedy Amateur Dramatics, which aired in Guildford this summer and, judging from the two songs we heard in the hectic 70-minute show he put together for the Stephen Sondheim Society at a sold-out Leicester Square Theatre, there’s plenty of mileage left in that.

Parker’s other gifts include juggling as he somehow managed to get 17 performers – 11 actor friends and six musicians – on to the tiny LST lounge stage at the same time for the show’s breezy overture.

And what talented friends he has accumulated. Fra Fee, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Alex Young and Michael Colbourne have already wowed the West End, while Iwan Lewis will get there soon enough judging from his rich ‘If I Loved You’.

Colbourne, who has wasted no time in making the giant leap from the Guildford School of Acting to playing Enjolras in Les Misérables, made a lovely job of the moving ‘While I Still Have the Time’, one of Marvin Hamlisch’s last compositions.

Pitt-Pulford joined the delectable Lucy Schaufer for a ‘My Favourite Things’ taster of The Sound of Music in which they, along with another friend Emma Harrold, are starring at the Leicester Curve over the Christmas period.

The marriage of two outstanding voices, Fee and Marry Me a Little star Pitt-Pulford, with Stiles and Drewe’s terrific ‘Wishing For the Normal’ from Parker’s first professional show Soho Cinders, was another highlight, along with Fee’s ‘Finishing the Hat’, part of the Sondheim section of a show that was over all too soon.

But not before that versatile actress-singer-comedienne Alex Young, the 2010 Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year, had reprised the ‘Send in the Clowns’ that first brought her to Parker’s attention as “still the best Desiree I’ve heard” in her Royal Academy of Music days.

She was much helped by some lovely flute work from Sarah Manship, who is working on Miss Saigon now (and for some considerable time by the look of it). Jonathan Hill, lead violin at Les Misérables, also lent Parker memorable support, along with Will Harvey, Alex Rider and Aaron Winslow.

There was a British first among the Sondheim gems – an arrangement of ‘Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story, sung by Fee, Lewis, Harrold and Christina Bennington, only previously used in the James Lapine-conceived 2010 Broadway revue Sondheim On Sondheim.

Soppy old fool that I am, the most memorable image from my afternoon came when Parker was so overcome in acknowledging the debt he owed his watching parents that he couldn’t speak and had to hand over the introduction of the finale, ‘Waiting For the Girls Upstairs’, to someone else.

No shame in demonstrating the depth of that love, Alex. You have already made yours proud – I know because I was sitting next to them – and few doubt you will be making them even prouder in the coming years.

Jeremy Chapman

Readers may also be interested in:

Everything’s Coming Up Jule Styne – interview with musical director Alex Parker

Curve’s The Sound of Music – Michael French and Laura Pitt-Pulford cast – News

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