Skip to main content Skip to footer site map


Classical Everywhere present a delightfully sumptuous staging of the Christmas favourite.

Review: HANDEL'S MESSIAH: THE LIVE EXPERIENCE, Theatre Royal Drury Lane For fans of Christmas and classical, Handel's rousing Messiah is usually top of their list of must-see shows. Conductor Gregory Batsleer's Classical Everywhere, an offshoot of Immersive Everywhere, makes its bow with a sumptuous staging of this seasonal favourite.

If Immersive Everywhere rings a bell, it is because they are the team behind the long-running The Great Gatsby, the rollicking The Choir of Man and new show Peaky Blinders: The Rise. As the new company's name suggests, Messiah is more about the music but with some of the inspired theatrical touches we've seen from its parent.

Batsleer has a stated passion for making classical music as accessible as possible. He has certainly succeeded on that front here: ticket prices for this one-off show ranged from £25-£75 which is eminently reasonable considering hat this production was staged at the recently refurbished home of Disney musical Frozen, lasts over two hours (including interval) and features an immense number of high profile musicians and singers,

He appears here conducting the combined masses of the English Chamber Orchestra and the London Symphony Chorus in a fluent and punchy rendition of the original score. When "Hallelujah" pops up at the end of the second part, most of the audience stands out of habit or sheer admiration of the musical wattage coming from the stage.

The soloists include some well known names from the world of opera either at the top of their game or getting there. Nicky Spence, a burly tenor from Dumfries won the BBC Music Magazine's Personality Of The Year award last April; that's no mean feat considering that in November 2021, he played Siegmund in one of the most underwhelming Wagner productions of modern times.

Alongside him are Australian soprano Danielle De Niese and ENO Harewood Artist Idunnu Münch who both play angels in the current run of the English National Opera's critically-acclaimed It's A Wonderful Life. Rounding out the quartet is the hirsute American bass-baritone Cody Quattlebaum whose gruff tones vibrate across the hall. All four have phenomenal voices with impressive acting, especially from Münch who expresses joy, grief and fury with a stunning palpability.

For most producers, these musicians would suffice to bring Messiah to life. Batsleer goes a step further by adding in two narrators. Arthur Darville (who you may have seen as Rory in BBC's Doctor Who or in the Royal Court's Rare Earth Mettle as the controversially re-named Henry Finn) plays "Child" opposite Trinidadian actress Martina Laird as "Mother". For some reason, both are kitted in some kind of dystopian outfit topped off in Darville's case with what appears to be a rubber codpiece which, once seen, really cannot be unseen.

Did you think Batsleer would stop at a huge choir, a national orchestra, four international soloists and two narrators? Think again. The last part of the stage ensemble are three dancers (Dan Baines, Jemima Brown and Sara Maehara) whose movements (choreographed by Tom Jackson Greaves) underline the emotional elements of this show.

All that should be enough, right? Wrong. The final part is a massive vertical screen which resembles the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Conceived and created by flora&faunavisions GmbH, it displays a range of high-resolution abstract images. For his part, director Neil Connolly (also creative director of Immersive Everywhere) does a commendable job of keeping all these elements co-ordinated, cohesive and impactful while never losing sight of the heart-lifting music.

Oh, and one more thing: those who deride this particular vision of Handel's masterpiece as being inauthentic should be locked in some stocks and pelted with facts. True, Messiah was intended by its creator for a small band of musicians and chorus singers but many recent productions have been on a similar scale to Classic Everywhere's or even bigger: in 1784, it was performed in Westminster Abbey by around 525 singers and instrumentalists.

On top of that, Handel never intended it to be a Christmas thing: the work was written with Easter and the resurrection of Christ in mind. Those who hanker for a more authentic experience should hang on until next April to crank up the gramophone or accept that, as I do, this masterpiece is just another of our strangely apposite Christmas traditions that is easier to enjoy than justify.

More information on Classical Everywhere can be found on their website.

Photo credit: Craig Fuller

SOLT and UK Theatre Respond to New Department and the Appointment of a New Secretary Of St Photo
Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre respond to recent Government announcements of a new Department and the Appointment of a new Secretary of State.

Camden Peoples Theatre Announces Spring Season Including Frankie Thompson, Brian Mullin, a Photo
Camden People's Theatre presents a season of refreshing, inventive and bold works this Spring, featuring their flagship festival of brand new, unexpected performance, SPRINT and a roll-call of the most exciting and well-respected names in fringe theatre.

CRIPtic Arts 2023 Programme Announced Photo
This will be a year of unparalleled creativity and community connection at CRIPtic Arts. Funded by Arts Council England, CAFBank, and Scope, they are launching a wide range of community programmes and artist development opportunities over the next year.

TREASON THE MUSICAL Will Release a Concert Album Ahead of Global Premiere in October Photo
Treason the Musical will ignite this year with an album, recorded from last year's Theatre Royal Drury Lane concert, and finish with a 'bang' in October with the global premiere of the fully staged production of Treason.

From This Author - Franco Milazzo

The Daily Beast were kind enough to call me "a man with an encyclopedic knowledge of the city’s underground culture" and who am I to disagree? If you have or know of a show which is... (read more about this author)

Review: PEEPING TOM: TRIPTYCH, Barbican TheatreReview: PEEPING TOM: TRIPTYCH, Barbican Theatre
February 5, 2023

Belgian dance company Peeping Tom verily put the 'trip' into Triptych, a brilliantly bizarre neo-noir dance trilogy full of deliciously dark delights.

Review: THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, Royal Opera HouseReview: THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, Royal Opera House
February 3, 2023

Whether you see this because of the scintillating score or because a night at the opera is now cheaper than heating your home, The Barber Of Seville is sure to warm the cockles of your heart.

Review: TITUS ANDRONICUS, Shakespeare's GlobeReview: TITUS ANDRONICUS, Shakespeare's Globe
February 2, 2023

Jude Christian's visually stunning take on this goriest of stories from Shakespeare is bound to raise more than a few eyebrows. In a gender reversal of what likely took place on its first outing, this production has an all-female cast committing the heinous murders. The many, many deaths are portrayed by candles being snuffed out. This may be set in ancient Rome, but the dress code here is pyjamas and, in place of lyres and pan pipes, the music here consists mainly of darkly comic songs. A classic interpretation? Hardly

Review: BILL'S 44TH, Barbican TheatreReview: BILL'S 44TH, Barbican Theatre
February 1, 2023

A party where no guests turns up. A punch bowl spiked with enough booze to get a mountain gorilla drunk. And a dancing carrot stick. Welcome to Bill's 44th birthday.

January 27, 2023

Quite why there aren’t more boundary-pushing, avant-garde, drag-slash-dance troupes around that appropriate film, TV and music to bring us satirically twisted versions of real-life and fictional historical figures, I really have no idea. So let’s treasure the ones that are around, eh?