Here comes the sun indeed at Chichester Festival Theatre!

REVIEW: Chichester Festival Theatre’s Concerts In The Park, Oaklands Park, June 3-6

Sunday, 6th June 2021, 12:53 pm
Updated Sunday, 6th June 2021, 12:54 pm
CFT Concerts in the Park

Starting off a summer open-air concert with Here Comes The Sun could be seen as tempting fate.

But the fates certainly smiled on Saturday night at least with an evening as beautiful as the music itself – a lovely way to get us in the mood for the pleasures ahead in the Festival Theatre’s delayed 2021 season.

CFT’s Concerts in the Park brought together West End performers Carly Bawden (Romantics Anonymous, Alice, My Fair Lady), Damian Humbley (Merrily We Roll Along, Company), Emma Kingston (Fiddler on the Roof, Evita, Zorro), Maimuna Memon (Jesus Christ Superstar, Standing at the Sky’s Edge) and Ako Mitchell (Caroline, Or Change, Sister Act, The Color Purple), plus presenter and actor Tom Read Wilson for a night of fine music.

Maybe just once or twice it might have been better to have gone all out for the big well-known numbers. A couple, particularly early on, were maybe just a little obscure.

But the musicianship was outstanding throughout, from the super-talented band every bit as much as from the singers themselves.

Absoutely everyone impressed on a genuinely happy night, but maybe Carly Bawden had the best of it all. It takes a special kind of courage to tackle a song as stunning as Life On Mars – and a special kind of skill to deliver it as brilliantly as Carly did.

And her take on Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You was trumped only by her own take on Bacharach and David’s I Say A Little Prayer.

Maimuna Memon delivered a stunning Bridge Over Troubled Water (how strange to think that Art himself had sung it in Oaklands Park 21 years ago, not a hundred yards from where we were all sitting). Maimuna was also terrific on It’s Quiet Up Town from Hamilton. As the concert lengthened, so it grew stronger.

Elsewhere Damian Humbley certainly got the crowd going with his rendition of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and For Once In My Life. Ako Mitchell did the same with Roof Garden, and Emma Kingston rounded things off with a fabulous Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing.

It all added up to a great night, a lovely reminder of just what it is to sit outside and share music.

Who knows what lies ahead, especially now that full reopening is starting to seem in the balance, to say the least.

But maybe the legacy from tonight, just as from last autumn’s Concerts in the Park, is that in adversity the CFT has come up with a formula which really does work. Tonight’s flower-power stage really was a picture.

How lovely it would be if – in happier, easier times ahead – a CFT open-air concert became an annual staple.