Gergana Giorgieva reviews Rhapsody, presented by UCL Live Music Society and UCL Stage Crew.
The opening night of UCL’s Rhapsody was a tremendous success, and this two-and-a-half-hour show was a true feast for the senses. Under the common theme of Rɘvolution, the range of performances ensured that there was something to suit everyone.
The chosen broad interpretation of the term Revolution gave room for 21 performances to take to the stage and share their work. While most of them consisted of one or a few singers accompanied by a band, some were joined by a choir, or sung acapella. The effortless switches between those different approaches and genres was a testament to the great job done by the production team.
The show, directed by Björn Franke and produced by Caycee Peskett-Hill and D’arcy Mcguinness, is the culmination of months of hard work of more than 120 UCL students. Everything – from lighting and stage design to sound and production management – is the result of the collective effort of UCL Live Music Society and UCL Stage Crew. Just a few months after the anticipated reopening of the Bloomsbury theatre, the now refurbished auditorium opened its doors for more than 300 music lovers who had come to join the Revolution. A screen at the back of the stage prepared us for what was to come for each performance and shared a quote either directly related to the piece or to the way the directors encouraged us to interpret it.
Ahilya Murkunde, together with her band and backing singers, delivered the start of the revolution, giving a powerful performance of Sia’s Titanium. This was followed by the folk piece My Silver Lining, the party-bringing tune Don’t U Worry ‘Bout A Thing, the playful strings arrangement of Britney’s Toxic, an artistic delivery of a David Bowie medley, an acapella Drive, which had a feeling of improvisation, and a classy and energetic duet of I’m Still Standing.
One of the highlights of the night was the mash-up of Dua Lipa’s New Rules and Justin Bieber’s Boyfriend. The piece showed creativity both in its conception and delivery. Lizzie Miesenboeck’s deep voice and her playfulness with the guitarists and her stage partner Ben Sharon, brought the performance to life. The two lead singers’ vocals were well balanced and the interaction between them and the band proved all of them as true performers, rather than simply musicians.
The piece that followed, the first in which the Rhapsody choir joined on stage, didn’t fall short. Chris Thomas’s execution of Muse’s Madness was energising and motivational, and his appearance was well worthy of UCLove’s front page. The two pieces before intermission, Stronger and Skies Over Fear, convincing delivered the artists’ messages and left the audience wanting more.
A highlight of the second act was the professionally executed and energetic Black Sabbath Medley, which gave even a seated audience the feeling of being at a heavy metal gig. Sam Smith’s Writing’s On The Wall was another truly beautiful performance as Chris Thomas slayed with his vocals while the additional horn part was an interesting addition to an otherwise brooding piece. The instrumental version of The Final Countdown managed to put a smile on everyone’s faces as the boys didn’t hold back in their aim to impress us – and they certainly didn’t disappoint.
Another artistic performance was given during a Survivor medley, whose three lead singers complimented each other perfectly, and the all-female band gave a true sense of girl power as they danced along to the empowering rhythms. In an attempt to top that came Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come which, despite being played by a small ensemble, filled the auditorium with their lovely and tender, but also intense and dramatic performance.
The uplifting and energetic performance of I Predict A Riot provided a strong contrast both to the previous song and to the Hozier piece that followed. While the version of Take Me To Church showed originality in its arrangement, its delivery didn’t feel as intimate as it should have, and felt like a promise unfulfilled. The combination of Hurt and My Immortal was a good transition to the last piece of the show – a Queen medley – a joyous and fitting finale that did justice to the legends.
Overall the energy in the auditorium was through the roof by the end. It was apparent that all artists were very much a part of the process of creating the show rather than simply being performers in it as their artistic input and excitement shone through and, without us noticing, they turned us into their accomplices.