Cynthia Erivo – Grammy, Emmy and Tony award winning actress, singer, songwriter, and producer, made her Proms debut at the Royal Albert Hall last night (17 July 2022), performing a selection of songs from some of her favourite artists, spanning the 1920s to the 1970s. As a bonus, she treated the audience to two of her own tracks towards the end of the show. The breadth and range of the set was extensive, packing both a huge punch and filling that vast auditorium, whilst also switching to heart-felt whispered delivery at times. The impactful set was accompanied by a dynamic BBC Concert orchestra.
During an unprecedented heatwave, those entering the Royal Albert Hall were welcomed with both the refreshing air-conditioned air but also a hugely warm welcome from Cynthia. She opened the show with a big and belting Don’t Rain on my Parade from Funny Girl, and quickly went on to explain to the highly engaged audience that she was merely there to sing a collection of songs that she loved, by artists she admired, and was delighted to have us along for the ride.
Like many of the artists whose songs she was celebrating, Cynthia is a natural and commanding showperson whose effortless talent, piercingly precise pitch and natural charisma resulted in a pacey, spellbinding, and captivating performance.
Looking every inch the Hollywood star in full length gold dress, she floated into At Last made famous by Etta James, holding the audience with her through every note. Rounding out the first act, Feeling Good, (Nina Simone), was met with spontaneous standing ovation by over half the audience. The control and subtly in her voice and performance was a joy to behold.
Returning in a white tulle voluminous dress, Act 2 opened with Love Story and then a stand out number, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face where yet again, Cynthia’s purity of vocal tone was breath-taking. Switching gears to cover two numbers in French, La Vie en Rose and Ne me Quitte Pas, she delivered the latter with a characterful and expressive performance.
Personally however, the autobiographical authenticity of the two self-penned songs, Glowing Up and You’re Not Here, were the true highlights of the evening. The latter song was raw, and heartfelt, with Cynthia’s lyrics depicting the harsh reality of being disowned by her father when she was 16. She conveyed the sadness she feels having experienced pivotal life events, without her father present. Ultimately, the song ends without malice, as she admits “I’ll always love you from afar”. Immersed in a sea of heartfelt emotion, Cynthia swept the auditorium to a standing ovation and rapturous applause.
One incredible performance by a truly captivating artist – the evening was one of both light and shade, showcasing Cynthia’s vocal clarity, authenticity and powerful connection with the audience.
Review by Louise Benham
Photos: BBC/Chris Christodoulou