Miss Moneypenny’s at Symphony Hall review by Lisa Evans

Last Friday, The Birmingham Symphony Hall, the most acoustically perfect venue in the UK, and amongst the top five in the world, was the prestigious setting of a music event that blended past and present in an epic fusion of orchestral music, live vocal PA’s and dance acts of a diversity rarely seen before on one stage.

As crowds began to arrive at the venue, a palpable buzz was in the air. Something monumental was about to happen. Old friends and new faces came together for what promised to be the biggest night of not just this year, but arguably the last decade. This was not just any music event. This was a homecoming; a musical pilgrimage, which represented almost a quarter of a century of the most legendary contemporary musical entertainment that has ever graced the UK club scene.

A Night At The Proms: The Conception

Miss Moneypenny’s Night at the Proms was a dazzling masterpiece of a show that in true Moneypenny’s style, broke the mould of expectations and warped the boundaries of anything that has come before. The idea to host the night in the sumptuous surroundings of the Symphony Hall was notably the brainchild of Brina: owner of Xtra Humongous and credible experiential clubbing brand Secret Party Projects.

This Midlands entrepreneur approached Moneypenny’s co-owner and DJ Jim “Shaft” Ryan with the concept of a live and fully immersive orchestrated show at The Birmingham Symphony Hall in a similar vein to Ibiza Proms, and was delighted to discover that Ryan had already had some ambitions in that direction after seeing an flyer for the Birmingham Gay Symphony Orchestra (BGSO) in the Co-op window in Harbourne.

A Wonderland of Sight and Sound

And so the adventure began, except in this case, there would be no backing tracks or pre-recorded sound of any kind; it had to be fully live as well as the emphasis of the show being as much about the spectacle as it was about the music. Coincidentally, the interiors of the Symphony Hall are aptly furnished in a bold opulent red – a twist of fate?

imagine, if you will, a visual wonderland of burlesque dancers, feathered show-girls, sequinned show-boys and divine drag queens

Now imagine, if you will, a visual wonderland of burlesque dancers, feathered show-girls, sequinned show-boys and divine drag queens. There were lasers, fire, pyro, acrobatic feats of skill strength and beauty worthy of Cirque du Soleil. Finally the pièce de résistance was a tonne of confetti cannoned into the air to rain down colour onto an ecstatic crowd.

Jim “Shaft” Ryan in his role as Musical Director curated a playlist of outstanding classic house tunes, working closely with the BGSO, as well as rhythm group The House Jammerz, a 10 piece vocal ensemble, Black Voices, and soulful PAs from artists that included Sonique, Rozalla, Lisa Millet, Rita Campbell and Amrick Channa. The spectacular performers and acts were organised with military precision by leading choreographer Maria Stavrou.

Miss Moneypenny’s in Retrospect

Made famous by its joyfully and outrageously extravagant style, which broke down barriers between race, gender and sexuality, Miss Moneypenny’s, (and its spin-off country house party event, Chuff Chuff), has always been headlined by the biggest house DJ’s in history, including names like Erick Morillo, Roger Sanchez, Norman Jay, Jeremy Healy, Brandon Block, Judge Jules, Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold to name just a few – the list goes on.

a sacred world of magic, mischief and mayhem…

A night with Miss Moneypenny’s, from Bonds to Liberty’s, then later from Club HQ to Ibiza, was always a gloriously lavish and high-end affair, with a famously selective admission policy ruled for many years by Moneypenny’s door royalty, Andrew Hinds (Bonds) in his distinctive top hat, and the inimitable “Spider”(Liberty’s, HQ and Ibiza) – both were gatekeepers to a sacred world of magic, mischief and mayhem with the sharpest eyes for fashion and style in the city.

A Family Reunion and Some Unexpected Guests

On Friday night, 25 years of classic house was reinvented in front of an audience as diverse as the show itself. The Symphony Hall erupted into a rapturous applause as the Ryan Brothers, Mick, Jim and Dermot, including the unforgettable Lee Garrick, walked out to welcome us all back to the family. The 60 piece BGSO opened the show with a thrilling arrangement of John Barry’s Bond movie soundtrack, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and you could have been forgiven for believing you were attending a traditional classical concert with a James Bond movie theme.

In fact that’s exactly what the bemused elderly couple sitting in the row behind believed they were watching…until Lola’s Theme kicked in to the mix and a parade of acrobats, show girls and drag queens appeared, receiving a euphoric standing ovation. Our puzzled-looking elderly patrons knew by now that they weren’t in Kansas anymore. They had been misled by the title of the tickets they had purchased so many months before and had been expecting a formal sit-down concert.

But Miss Moneypenny’s reaches out to everyone, young or old; the music gets into your heart and soul, and knows no boundaries or limitations. Sure enough, by the time the encore finished, artist bows were taken, and cannons rained down tonnes of brightly coloured confetti, the oldest audience members (and newest Miss Moneypenny’s fans) were on their feet applauding in exaltation along with the rest of us.

Be very very excited. Miss Moneypenny’s is back in the house.

If you missed this masterpiece, you missed out. But fear not, this is only the first of several more MMP’s events that will be taking the UK by storm in 2018 to celebrate their 25th Anniversary.

Stay updated on future events:

Official website: www.miss-moneypennys.com
Facebook @MissMoneypennysUK
Instagram @missmoneypennysuk

Official website: www.xtrahumongous.com
Facebook @XtraHumongousLtd
Instagram @xtrahumongous

Review by Lisa Evans for Grapevine Birmingham |Insta. @Lisa_doeslife

*images courtesy of Miss Moneypenny’s ©