Avalon is a new show combining traditional orchestral performance with spectacular staging and special effects. Described as 'War of The Worlds' meets 'Riverdance', it has an original score by JMusic.
Avalon follows the story of Arthur Pendragon. Tricked into life by magic, tricked out of love by his dearest friend. Avalon is a tale of passion, conjured with magical music and dance.
The cast, production and budget for Avalon is fully adaptable.
The invitation was tempting: “Can I offer you VIP passes for Avalon in Guildford Cathedral? It’s been described as War of The Worlds meets Riverdance, and Richard E.Grant will be the narrator.” I’ve never had a VIP pass before, so I thought I’d try it. It turned out to entitle me to a glass of agreeable white wine before the show and another in the interval, with a seat among the production’s backers and well-wishers near the front of Guildford’s imposing nave.
And the show? It would be very easy – and very wrong – to dismiss it as a vanity project. Composer-producer Joe O’Connor, with a long experience of putting together shows for cruise ships, is basically offering a showcase of his work. He has dared to stage it in a cathedral, where its pretentious narrative is delivered gamely by Mr Grant in front of a 40-piece orchestra and a chorus of two dozen, while solo singers, dancers, an acrobat and even a laser-wielding violinist intervene.
The sheer effort of rigging a stage and installing some highly professional lighting and sound kit in the not particularly welcoming surroundings of a cathedral, in order to present a two-hour song and dance show with a day for rehearsal and less than that for a get-out, is enormous, and O’Connor’s backstage team worked wonders to ensure that a technically complex evening went without a hitch.
What makes the show overall, in addition to a number of spectacular interventions from highly skilled Russian aerialist, Valerie Murzak, is O’Connor’s large orchestra and the excellent music they perform. Under the energetic direction of Richard Beadle, these talented musicians deliver a most attractive, driving score, rich in pounding rhythms that justify the comparison to Riverdance. Not only that but they are enjoyably interpreted by a competent dance ensemble. The choir, meanwhile, observe proceedings from a steep podium at the back of the nave and deliver capably when called upon.
A pretty full house obviously enjoyed this one-night stand, and so did I. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that in O’Connor we have found a composer of symphonic rock to be reckoned with, and it would be great if this project could be developed. With a bit of work, it could have a future on the arena circuit as stellar as that of Riverdance.
Ian Herbert, The ‘Stage’ July 2012