Stuart Matthew Price Sings The Songbook of Schwartz at St James Theatre Studio, London.
Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The talented Stuart Matthew Price treated us to the second opus of his own songbook series at St James Studio, this time celebrating the work of Wicked composer Stephen Schwartz after paying tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber last time.
The relaxed but starry evening started off with Price’s impeccable delivery of ‘Magic to Do’ and ‘Corner of the Sky’ from Pippin, followed by a cleverly arranged Godspell medley devised by brilliant pianist/composer Sean Green, all backed by three promising Mountview students: Georgia Riley, Emma Hall and Thomas Winfield.
His first guest, Charlotte Wakefield, with whom he previously worked in A Spoonful of Sherman, then gave us a rendition of the cabaret classic ‘Meadowlark’ from the too rarely performed The Baker’s Wife. Act I concluded with an extensive selection from Children of Eden, with Price introducing the talented and funny Jana Stelley, who starred as Glinda in the German version of Wicked in Stuttgart.
Act II opened with a beautifully harmonised and very original version of ‘Colours of the Wind’ from Disney’s Pocahontas, followed by two little-known gems: ‘Fathers and Sons’ from the overlooked Working and ‘Lion Tamer’ from The Magic Show, delivered by Price and Stelley respectively.
Ashleigh Gray (West End’s own Elphaba) then reprised, with Wakefield, the Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey duet ‘When You Believe’ which Schwartz wrote in the late 1990s for the animated feature The Prince of Egypt, currently being developed as a Broadway-bound stage musical, following in the footsteps of Frozen.
The charming evening ended with a selection from what Price referred to earlier as the “green thing!” following his impressive rendition of ‘The Wizard and I’, his ‘As Long As You’re Mine’ duet with Gray and a tongue in cheek version of ‘Defying Gravity’ (in the original key, mind you, but with the actor/singer wearing a phoney hat and smears of green make-up).
When Price offered an emotional encore at the piano to ‘Beautiful City’ from Godspell, it was like hearing that song for the first time and demonstrated the full range of the performer’s immense talent.
Very humble as an artist, and with his genuine love for the material so obvious, Price has greatly matured as a performer since his first solo show at the Studio. In addition to being a great singer, he is also a fabulous host with an easygoing persona, humorous patter, offering well-researched anecdotes and showcasing classy guests.
He is more than ever West End leading man potential, but until the right role comes along we can’t wait for his next opus, celebrating Alan Menken.