BWW Review: THE JOHN WILSON ORCHESTRA: AT THE MOVIES, Brighton Dome
The dazzling John Wilson Orchestra is travelling around the UK with their new At the Movies concert tour, packed full of classic film scores.
Earlier this year, the orchestra - who specialise in the classic film and musical theatre repertoire - performed West Side Story to mark Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday at the BBC Proms.
Under the baton of John Wilson, they fill the Brighton Dome with their opening piece - excerpts from Korngold's music for the 1940 classic film The Sea Hawk. The orchestra play with prowess, responding to Wilson's dynamic instruction.
The violins recreate the unique, razor-sharp, slick unison sound associated with vintage film scores, yet there are also moments of dense harmony with the softest of woolly textures.
John Mills, orchestra leader, plays a number of soaring solos with tenderness and passion.
Hollywood's "Golden Age" is defined as the time where "The Big Five" (MGM, Warner Bros, Fox, Paramount and Columbia) churned out a staggering number of films between the early 1930s to the mid-1950s.
Wilson's brief narrative between every other piece demonstrates his knowledge and passion for the era.
Given the number of classic movie musicals produced in this period, the orchestra are joined for this tour by vocalist Kim Criswell - "the queen of the fermata", as referred to by Wilson after an exciting performance of the title song from Everybody Sing, made famous by Judy Garland.
Criswell has an impressive CV spanning the globe, treading the boards in the West End and on Broadway.
With a commanding stage presence, Criswell has incredible versatility as she flits from belting "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" to showing off a sweet soprano in "The Sound of Music" - delighting the audience as she channels her inner Maria by spinning around the stage during the opening swells of the Rogers and Hammerstein number.
As a nod to Gene Kelly's contribution to developing dance on the silver screen, Wilson conducts the ballet sequence from The Band Wagon. Wilson shares that Gene's widow, Patricia Kelly, is in the audience. He greets her and makes a sincere tribute to her and her late husband.
Two numbers are performed from the 1968 film adaption of Funny Girl, with music by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill. Criswell and the orchestra's larger-than-life rendition of "People" provokes cries of "Bravo" from the audience and a show-stopping rendition of "Don't Rain On My Parade" has many toes tapping.
Trumpet player Michael Lovatt takes centre stage playing the original instrumental arrangement of the "Love Theme" from The Sandpiper - also known as the song "The Shadow of Your Smile", made famous by Tony Bennett.
A nod is made to John Williams, one of the pioneers of the modern film score era in a thrilling performance of "Adventures On Earth" from ET - The Extra Terrestrial. The finale is performed with immense energy and commitment by everyone on stage.
Following a standing ovation and prolonged applause, the orchestra wow the audience with a jaw-dropping encore of the Gershwin brothers' "I Got Rhythm", joined once again by Criswell.
She steps aside for an extended instrumental section, where each section of the orchestra is given one more opportunity to display their virtuosity playing Wilson's stunning arrangement.
The John Wilson Orchestra's At the Movies concert is a wonderful whistle-stop tour of the Golden Era of Hollywood, a genre that the ensemble excels at performing. This stunning evening of classic film music should not be missed.
Photo credit: Chris Christodoulou