There are some musical theatre performers who are big enough to attract audiences to solo concerts but most of them do but one date in the capital, such as Audra McDonald (the most decorated star in Broadway history), Sierra Boggess, Ariana DeBose, and Samantha Barks.
As for tours: a few years back, Broadway Queen Bernadette Peters was supposed to tour the UK, and Kerry Ellis (“the Queen of West End musicals”) was supposed to do a three-date UK tour last month, but problems with the promoters led to both being cancelled, with Ellis’ tour relegated to a one-night only London concert.
Lucie Jones recently toured three venues down south, and Lea Salonga has toured the UK twice in recent years, visiting nine venues last year.
Then there’s Carrie Hope Fletcher, who is currently touring a whopping 18 venues around the country – and it’s her first ever concert tour! It’s hard to think of another theatre performers who could achieve such a feet. Elaine Paige might be the only one.
Most concerts have an opening act, an interval and then a main set that lasts anywhere between 90 and 120 minutes. Musical theatre concerts, however, tend not to have an opening act. The concert is structured more like a piece of theatre, with the artist performing two acts similar in length – sometimes with a special guest or two (or, in the case of Samantha Barks, three!).
Carrie’s concerts are structured uniquely, with an opening set from Irish vocal group Trinity (an Irish man and an American and Canadian of Irish heritage) that leads right into Carrie’s set, with an interval breaking her set up.
Trinity are exceptionally talented vocalists and also very likeable and charming, which made up for the slightly dreary opening numbers. The third song was well-known Irish song ‘Danny Boy’, before they performed a few more mainstream songs, such as ‘From Now On’ from The Greatest Showman, which the Canadian referred to “one of the best, if not the best, musical theatre songs,” before the American warned him that this audience might not take too well to such a bold statement. Indeed, my friend (and former writer), Sophie, told me it doesn’t even make the top 50. But it’s a good song, nonetheless, and Trinity delivered a roaring rendition.
The later songs really allowed the boys to show off their impressive vocals. Their final performance was especially excellent, and I loved the transition to the main set, with the boys saying, “please welcome to the stage, Carrie Hope Fletcher,” as her band took their seats.
A short while after Trinity left the stage, Carrie arrived.
Whilst Carrie is the biggest West End star right now, she has admitted to being nervous performing as herself, rather than performing as, and thus hiding behind, a character. So she has decided to do something unique with her concert and turn it into a piece of theatre. The stage, decorated like a library-lounge, with books everywhere, is a visual manifestation of a part of Carrie’s mind – complete with an audience she has imagined. The concert’s “story” follows Carrie planning the setlist for her show, whilst she shares tales with her “imaginary” audience.
Carrie opened her set with ‘Another Chapter’ from Between the Lines, which was fitting, given the name of the tour (An Open Book) and all the books scattered around the stage. It was quite clear that this was going to be an evening of songs and stories, an invitation into Carrie’s weird and wonderful world, an overview of her life and career so far, a celebration of all that she has achieved, and the turning of a page – a new chapter!
Carrie told stories in between each song. When performing a song she had performed in a show, she would offer some context or tell us a story about the song and/or the show.
Other times, the song was a continuation of her tale. For example, after singing her opening number, she told us a story that ended with “there are worse things I could do”, before going into ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’ from Grease.
This was followed by ‘The Inevitable’ from the musical Treason (Carrie starred in the original cast).
Carrie then spoke about Les Mis, one of the musicals she is most often associated with. She began her stage career as Young Éponine in the West End production, later returning as adult Éponine, a role she also played in Dubai, before playing Fantine in The Staged Concert and later the West End production. She told us about her favourite song from the musical without naming it, before singing ‘Stars’, which smoothly transitioned into Éponine’s heartbreaking ballad ‘On My Own’, a song often associated with Carrie.
She then sang ‘Pretty Funny’ from Dogfight and covered McFly‘s ‘Bubblewrap’ as a tribute to her brother, Tom Fletcher, before ending the first act with ‘I Say No’ from Heathers, which many consider her signature song. Carrie told us that the song was not in the musical on Broadway but, rather, it was written exclusively for the off-West End production, awhile after performances had began. She told us that she had been nervous singing it for the first time because Heathers fans are tough (some might argue toxic but let’s not go there). The new song had not been announced prior to it’s first time being performed. Carrie said she recalled a girl on the front row, dressed as Veronica, in (positive) disbelief when she began singing it.
It’s always magical seeing musical theatre performers their signature songs live, and as I was still reeling from Ariana DeBose not singing ‘America’, I was chuffed to see Carrie perform her three signature songs: ‘On My Own’, ‘I Say No’, and ‘Pulled’ (more on that later).
Carrie poetically opened the second act with the reprise of ‘Another Chapter’ before offering a cathartic rendition of ‘I’d Rather Be Me’ from Mean Girls. Two days later, Samantha Barks performed that sassy, self-loving song at her concert. It’s one of my favourite songs to come from a new musical so it was a delight seeing two West End queens cover it.
Carrie then told us about her emo phase as a teenager (I’m not at all surprised she went through one). Whilst she has clearly grown out of it, she still loves the music. To mark this chapter of her life, she offered a marvellous medley of Fall Out Boy‘s ‘Thnks fr th mmrs’, Plain White T‘s ‘So Damn Clever’, and My Chemical Romance‘s ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’.
She then shifted from MCR back to MT, with covers of ‘The Secret of Happiness’ from Daddy Long Legs, ‘Wherever He Ain’t from Mack & Mabel, and ‘The Age of Not Believing’ from one of my favourite films as a kid, Bedknobs and Broomsticks (which is now also a stage musical too).
After offering a beautiful rendition of Sara Bareilles‘ ‘Someone Who Loves Me’, she performed her final signature song of the evening: ‘Pulled’ from The Addams Family. She told us that she had sang the song in a concert years back and was told she could be cast as Wednesday Addams if the musical ever came to the UK – and, of course, she was.
In fact, the first time I ever saw Carrie onstage was in The Addams Family at this very theatre. Sadly, she was not allowed to stage door because she was unwell. All these years later – after having seen her in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella twice and with the Cinderella cast at West End Live 2021 – I finally got to meet the Queen of the West End!
Speaking of Cinderella – sadly, Carrie did not sing anything from it, not even the bop ‘Bad Cinderella’ or the beautiful ‘I Know I Have a Heart’. However, she did subtly shade the show, when she referred to a musical she workshopped transferring on to the West End before mentioning Cinderella: she said something along the lines of, “you know what happened there.”
I suspect Carrie wants to put that tumultuous chapter of her life behind her. This concert tour is a celebration of her career so far, and that musical is a little toxic to touch.
Carrie interestingly ended the show with ‘The Life I Never Led’ from Sister Act. I guess she relates to the touching lyrics. It was an emotional end to an engaging evening which allowed us to get to know the woman behind many iconic roles.
Whilst I have been to a few gig musicals, I think this was my first theatrical concert (so to speak). Whilst Carrie was semi-acting, she was playing herself, and the setting was her own mind, so we did really get to know her.
This is no ordinary concert; it’s a personal, musical, semi-dramatised overview and celebration of Carrie Hope Fletcher’s wonderful life and roaring career.