On Sunday the 1st of September, I went to the UK Premiere of Doctor Zhivago at Cadogan Hall in London. It was an incredible thing to be able to see and witness live. Everyone had the most pretty vocals which made this gorgeous story even more stunning. Let’s dive into the magical night, shall we?!
The story of Zhivago mostly follows the story of a man called Yurii (Ramin Karimloo) and his love for both his wife Tonia (Kelly Mathieson) and the mysterious woman called Lara (Celinde Schoenmaker). The night of Tonia and Yurii’s wedding, Lara bursts in to kill Victor Komarovsky; she misses but Yurii’s life is changed forever, haunted by his memory of this woman. Years later when he is called to the front to serve as a medic, he manages to find Lara. On the night of her wedding to revolutionary Pasha (Charlie McCullagh), Lara confesses to him about the affair that she had with Komarovsky a friend of her mother. Pasha flees and Lara runs after him but doesn’t find him…she finds Yurii. Whilst another short encounter, the experience inspired Yurii to write a poem about her.
When Yurii arrives home from the front, the revolution has taken over. Moscow has become unsafe for him, Tonia his wife and their family. They flee to hide out in the mountains, next to a town that Lara has gone to live in. Yurii’s escape from Moscow was discovered by Strelnikov, Zhivago is arrested but he doesn’t realise that Strelnikov his interrogator is Lara’s husband Pasha but with a new identity.
Yurii is later released but is under surveillance by Strelnikov’s men. As hard as Yurii tries he can’t stay away from Lara when they see each other they’re swept up into a night of passion, they can’t deny their love any longer. Guilty that he betrayed his vows to Tonia, he and Lara decide to separate but as he leaves he is taken by Strelnikov’s men to serve as a doctor to Strelnikov in the forests of Siberia. Tonia is worried by the unexplained disappearance of Yurii, she goes in hunt of the person she thinks might know some information…Lara.
Yurii manages to escape and make it home but he is badly injured and weak, Lara nurses him back to health and in their final few weeks together their love flourishes. Yurii is visited by Strelnikov who hopes of finding Lara to say goodbye, but it is too late, she is gone.
Time has passed and it is now 1930, the day of Yurii’s funeral, alongside all the Russian mourners are Lara and her daughter. All of the mourners are holding books of Yurii’s poems despite the government ban on them. United they stand with their love for Yurii’s poems, which symbolize the soul of Russia.
First up we have Ramin Karimloo as the main man Yurii. Most people know Ramin for his work in The Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables – same as me. I’d never heard him live and in a role before but his vocals were the smoothest I have ever heard. He was also an amazing storyteller, he was able to captivate the audience and move all of them with his voice. Ramin excelled in this role as both performer and storyteller. It was a concert version of the musical, so not a lot of movement on stage but Ramin told the story with emotion. Like Yurii he had great chemistry with both Kelly who portrayed Tonia and Celinde who played Lara; his voice complimented them both so nicely that you didn’t know who you wanted him to be with. Whilst you think he should stay loyal and stay with Tonia, his scenes with Lara were equally beautiful. I adored Ramin in this role and couldn’t imagine anyone else in it.
Next up we have Kelly Mathieson as Tonia, I had seen Kelly perform as Christine Daae in Phantom of The Opera over the summer, so I was thrilled to see she was announced as a cast member. I generally adore Kelly’s vocals anyway but this was on another level! She just sings with such grace, it’s gorgeous. I especially adored her duet with Celinde, I thought they sounded amazing together and it was one of my favourite songs from the performance. Her and Ramin also had a lovely duet to go with their great chemistry, it’s called Watch the Moon and has become one of my favourites to listen to on the soundtrack. Bonus, their version is on YouTube so I can listen to it whenever I feel the need to! Kelly also had a lovely solo which was a reprise based on her and Ramin’s earlier song Watch The Moon, it was sung so beautifully. Like Ramin, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role
Moving onto Celinde who played Ramin’s other love interest Lara. I had only seen Celinde once before at Ben Forster’s concert back in June and never in a role. Wow her voice is heavenly! A truly gorgeous vocalist. Her solo song When the Music Played was both gorgeous and heartbreaking, It is another of my favourite songs in the musical to listen to. As mentioned above her and Kelly had a gorgeous duet which I also adore called It Comes As No Surprise which is the song that Tonia and Lara sing when they meet in wake of Yurii’s disappearance, their voices were heavenly, I loved them individually but LOVED them when they came together. Like Yurii, Lara has two love interests, both of which Celinde had great chemistry with. I am so glad Celinde was cast in this and that I got to see her perform in a musical!
Lastly, we have Charlie McCullagh who played revolutionist Pasha/Strelnikov. I loved Charlie’s role, it gave me so many Enjloras (from Les Mis) vibes; speaking of I would LOVE to see him that role in the future, he would be amazing! His vocals were so strong and I wanted more! He had a song called It’s a Godsend which gave off Do You Hear The People Sing vibes. I thought his scenes with Celinde were acted amazingly and they had amazing chemistry and then his scenes with Ramin were just as well acted. I wish we could have got more of Charlie and Pasha as he was such an interesting character!
I also have to mention the kids in this production, they were on par with the adults in the production. All their voices were amazing, they’re certainly ones you’ll have to look out for in the future!
I am so hoping that this lovely musical gets a transfer to the West End in the future so that more people can experience this piece of art! It is a stunning story and this cast was extraordinary, I’m so glad I got the chance to experience it! If it returns, make sure you book your tickets because you wouldn’t want to miss it! It’s not as complicated as it sounds!