Disney At Trinity
KIT FOWLER went expecting cheese but left wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
With hindsight, I don’t really know what I was expecting from “The Circle of Life”, even though it had been marketed as a ‘cheesefest’. I envisaged an intimate homage to some great films, accompanied by a few musicians, a dodgy microphone and a parade of garish onesies.
At least I got the onesies right.
Fighting my way inside Trinity chapel, through the hordes of people queueing for those last few tickets, I was soon made aware that the scale of this concert was going to be somewhat larger than a CUMTS bar night. Simon Nathan, conducting and organising the concert, had pulled together a 60 piece orchestra, a 16 voice choir and a troupe of sickeningly talented soloists. I couldn’t help revelling in the so-wrong-but-so-right feeling of going to a 400+ year old chapel to hear songs based around the antics of a teapot and an octopus.
The first number was nothing short of bombastic. As the opening cries of ‘The Circle of Life’ silenced the building, a collective shiver of anticipation shot through the audience. Rhianna Frost managed to fill the massive space with a voice to match. Elton would have been proud – and who would’ve thought such a little person could pack such a powerful voice?
Emma Powell was up next, with the gentler ‘Tale as Old as Time’ (sadly, not in Mrs. Potts attire), and her performance was heartfelt and sweet. Unfortunately for Powell, Henry Jenkinson was hot on her heels with ‘Friend Like Me’, and suddenly the previous performance felt a little flat. Bringing a maelstrom of energy to the song with vocal confidence and precision (matched by a cracking brass section in the orchestra), the room was left awed.
‘A Whole New World’ should be standard Disney fare – drab lyrics but with enough optimism to buck up a depressed Eeyore. Instead, Lily Parham and Guy Woolf transformed the song into a passionate dialogue. Parham’s voice in particular brought a tear, no doubt, to many an eye.
Likewise, the next duet of James Robinson and Mark Nathan performing ‘Heaven’s Light/Hellfire’ from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was, erm, divine. I was informed by a worldly “muso” friend that Robinson was ‘pretty much the best tenor in Cambridge’ and, to my ear, he was every bit the heart-of-gold monster in the tower. Nathan, meanwhile, clearly had the raw vocal power needed for such a big number – though I would’ve liked to have seen more of Frollo’s tortured soul come through in the song. Both, however, coped admirably with the darkest of the Disney canon. Fighting to keep the orchestra’s power under control, Simon Nathan also managed to produce a masterly build-up of tension before letting loose as Mark Nathan peaked.
It would be unfair of me not to dedicate some space to the orchestra. In a way, there’s little to add. They delivered an immaculate recreation of the soundtracks – but that’s no mean feat. Competing with soloists in the chapel’s acoustic setting was always going to be a challenge. Their musical prowess came across most magnificently in ‘Go The Distance’, Hercules’ inspirational tune, with Sam Oladeinde every bit the confident hero. The final vocal number, ‘Pour Unfortunate Souls’, was something of an odd choice given the amount of dialogue in the middle of the song, but Temi Wilkey kept the audience entertained with some spirited acting bridging the gap.
As we emerging blinking into the afternoon sun, there was a sense of youthfulness and excitement shared between the audience; and, rereading my words now, it’s fair to say some of that “cheese” has spilt into my review. In terms of the ‘wow’ factor though, I have never left a performance with my jaw any lower or my eyes any wider.