Hugh Maynard launched his debut album Something Inside So Strong at the London Hippodrome.
Star rating: 5 stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
What a night! Something indeed was inspirationally strong at Hugh Maynard’s late-night launch for his debut solo album at the London Hippodrome.
Currently starring as John in Miss Saigon, Maynard sang with such magnificence, power, emotion and nuance. It was an absolute privilege to be present and share this very special one-off concert. Having clearly demonstrated he can hold an audience in the palm of his hand, I trust it will not be long before we see him in concert again.
Maynard was supported by a first-class five-piece band led by Liam Holms on grand piano who played exquisitely throughout the show. Wonderfully authentic musical arrangements of several different styles, an awesome group of ‘backing singers’ (aka fellow cast members from Miss Saigon), and guest appearances from Kwang-Ho Hong and Rachelle Ann Go, created a musical feast. Every song was a masterpiece and a joy.
We already knew that Maynard could deliver a musical theatre ‘torch song’, captivating audiences every night with Boublil and Schönberg’s epic ‘Bui Doi’, which is on the album, but he opened his set with a thrilling ‘Heaven On Their Minds’ from Jesus Christ Superstar.
Other musical theatre tracks on the album, which Maynard didn’t sing at this concert, are Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Not My Father’s Son’ from Kinky Boots and the poignant ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Misérables. At this concert he gave this song slot to his fellow cast member Kwang-Ho Hong who sang it with devout, heartfelt reverence and intensity to huge applause. Maynard also welcomed Rachelle Ann Go who sang an ardent ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ (NOT on his album!).
Maynard obviously has a deep affection and respect for his colleagues and recounted recent shared concerts in Kwang-Ho Hong’s home country of Korea when they delighted thousands in concerts at Seoul Olympic Hall in February. The actor and singer joined both singers in charming duets: a slow, relaxed jazzy ‘Wonderful Tonight’ with Kwang-Ho and a beautifully blended vocal duet of ‘Say Something’ with Rachelle.
Rock and soul numbers make up the other songs on this magnificent album. Seal’s ‘Kiss From a Rose’ was so powerful when accompanied by this fantastic band: Drew Lowe on guitar, Jonny Brister on drums, Dan Francis Owen on bass and Ashton Moore on keys and sax. The latter played an especially fabulous sax on Stevie Wonder’s ’Superstition’.
A mesmeric and unexpected song choice in ‘Get Here’ (written by Brenda Russell but known as Oleta Adams’ signature song in 1991) changed the pace of the evening. Wonderful to hear a male artist perform this beautiful song, eking out every single word and thought.
Halfway through the concert Maynard became conductor of a rap style, a cappella ‘Bui Doi’ from the Miss Saigon ensemble of seven, led in fabulous Beyonce style ‘diva mode’ by Carolyn Maitland to much laughter and applause .
More exhilarating powerhouse songs electrified the room – John Farnham’s joyous and exuberant ’You’re the Voice’, Brian McKnight’s ‘Back At One’ with absolute class backing singing, and Stevie Wonder’s ’Lately’ which didn’t make this album (which hopefully means it will be on the next one?!)
Maynard completed the evening with the title track from the album. A tremendous and powerful ‘Something Inside So Strong’. And a grateful audience rose to give a heartfelt standing ovation, privileged to have to been there.
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Interview – Miss Saigon’s Hugh Maynard chats about his new solo album