Review: Musical Theatre Gala (Queensland Symphony Orchestra)

Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Musical Theatre Gala, photographed by Peter Wallis

Queensland Symphony Orchestra brought a broad selection of musical theatre classics to the QPAC Concert Hall for their special Musical Theatre Gala event, hosted and conducted by Guy Noble. Following a successful gala in 2021, the 2022 concert was made even longer, with a programme featuring Broadway heavyweights like Rodgers and Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, and Leonard Bernstein.

Joining the orchestra for this special event were vocalists Amy Lehpalmer, Alexander Lewis, Aidan O Cleirigh and Lucinda Wilson, as well as a large group of students from the Bachelor of Musical Theatre from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. Lighting is always an element of Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s concerts, but for the Musical Theatre Gala the lighting design was much more dramatic, dynamic, and colourful than usual.

Guy Noble conducts Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Musical Theatre Gala, photographed by Peter Wallis

The orchestra launched straight in with Gershwin’s jaunty Overture from Girl Crazy, followed by John Kander’s All That Jazz from Chicago, sung by Amy Lehpalmer with the Queensland Conservatorium students.

Alexander Lewis was full of youthful energy and smooth, sustained notes as he sang Leonard Bernstein’s Something’s Coming from West Side Story. Continuing with West Side Story, this was immediately followed by A Boy Like That, with Lehpalmer and Wilson facing off as Anita and Maria, their voices layering and their dramatic performances full of passion and rage. This transitioned smoothly into Agony from Stephen Sondheim’s fractured fairy tale musical Into the Woods, with Lewis and O Cleirigh delivering an expressive (and comedic) performance as the two princes.

Amy Lehpalmer and Alexander Lewis perform in Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Musical Theatre Gala, photographed by Peter Wallis

Lehpalmer then performed the titular song from The Sound of Music, complete with twirling gown and clear, clipped enunciation. Lehpalmer mentioned that Maria was her favourite role – she won critical acclaim for her performance as Maria in the 2016 national tour – before performing the duet Something Good from the same musical with Lewis. Guy Noble also noted that this song was written for the 1965 film starring Julie Andrews, and was later added to the musical.

Alexander Lewis gave such a passionate performance of Finishing the Hat from Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George that I immediately wanted to see the whole musical. Lewis also mentioned that he and his wife had fallen in love while playing the roles of Dot and George in a production of the musical. The Musical Theatre Gala was peppered with personal anecdotes and points of interest, from the performers as well as from Guy Noble as host.

Guy Noble conducts Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Musical Theatre Gala, photographed by Peter Wallis

Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Schönberg’s I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables gave me goosebumps, and the audience was sent into the interval with the invigorating One Day More from Les Mis, including fabulous theatrical performances by several students of the Queensland Conservatorium as Marius and the Thénardiers.

Following the interval, we eased back in with the swooping and soaring Entr’acte from Phantom of the Opera. Lucinda Wilson tackled the notoriously difficult Wishing you were somehow here again from Phantom, earning enthusiastic applause. Alexander Lewis then performed Billy Bigelow’s Soliloquy from Carousel, which he described as “problematic but beautiful”. With the orchestra in full swing, the song was an emotional rollercoaster as Billy contemplated impending fatherhood.

Aidan O Cleirigh performs Herod’s Song in Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Musical Theatre Gala, photographed by Peter Wallis

Popular from Schwartz’s musical about the witches of Oz, Wicked, followed, performed by Lehpalmer as a rather Australian Glinda, followed by Superstar and Herod’s Song from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 70s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. As Herod, Aidan O Cleirigh was joined onstage by two dancers in psychedelic minidresses, and the trio executed a routine of classic musical theatre choreography in addition to the vocal performance. Lehpalmer then packed a punch with her renditions of Maybe This Time from Kander’s Cabaret and Styne’s Don’t Rain on my Parade from Funny Girl, with Lewis’ strong performance of Being Alive from Sondheim’s Company in between.

Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Musical Theatre Gala, photographed by Peter Wallis

The programme concluded with Make Our Garden Grow, composed by Leonard Bernstein, from Candide, bringing all of the performers back to the stage. An energetic encore included a Sound of Music singalong and songs from Spamalot and Carousel.

Although it would have been nice to hear a few more modern musical classics (the most recent work programmed was from 2003 musical Wicked) Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Musical Theatre Gala had a wonderful energy, and there was skill and showmanship in abundance.


The Musical Theatre Gala was performed at the QPAC Concert Hall on 29 October 2022.

For information about this and upcoming concerts, visit the QSO website


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