John Wilson’s Hooray for Hollywood – his third authentic concert performance of classic film musical scores at the Proms in as many years – proves a natural sequel to 2009’s celebration of MGM film musicals. Having looked at Rodgers and Hammerstein last year, this time round Wilson takes a look at musical films from other studios such as Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox during the 1930s to 1960s period, as well as lesser-known MGM material. The programme traces the film musical from its inception to the demise of the studio system, featuring songs from Fred and Ginger to Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Mario Lanza, Ethel Merman and Barbra Streisand. As usual, John Wilson – editor and arranger as well as conductor – has transcribed many of the scores from recordings and piano sketches – a total of some several million notes.

The first half is an amiable run-through of the earlier period. Fred and Ginger’s 9 films for RKO are represented here by Matthew Ford and Clare Teal, including such classics as A Fine Romance and Shall We Dance. Ford is a Big Band and John Wilson veteran, personable and clearly at home here, while jazz and Radio 2 girl Teal proves that her blues flavoured vocals suit musical theatre too. International musical theatre star Caroline O’Connor raises the temperature with a spirited version of Strike Up The Band with the Maida Vale Singers who provide stirling, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, backing throughout proceedings. Despite these classic song choices, some of the lesser-known numbers made less of an impression, such as Ford’s rendering of Main Street, a non-Bernstein number from the film On The Town. Incredible to note that only four of Leonard Bernstein’s numbers from his classic stage musical survived on film.

The music and the tempo moved up a gear in the second half of the programme which focussed on the 1950s and 1960s, beginning with Judy Garland’s comeback in A Star Is Born in 1954, and Caroline O’Connor wringing every emotional line out of the famous torch song The Man That Got Away. After a well considered rendering of Secret Love from Calamity Jane by Clare Teal, the Fabulous Fifties segment also saw the male vocal highlight of the evening in Charles Castronovo’s Serenade from The Student Prince. Mr Castronovo has a stunning voice of great richness and tonality which emanated around the vast Royal Albert Hall arena – no need for a microphone here. A lyric tenor who has appeared at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, he was a real find.

The ‘Stage to Screen’ segment of the programme saw Castronovo return to the stage for a duet with soprano Sarah Fox, in One Hand, One Heart, Bernstein’s moving declaration of love between Tony and Maria, the two protaganists in West Side Story. This part of the programme began with John Wilson’s hand-picked orchestra in fine fettle in Jule Styne’s classic overture to Gypsy (surely the best overture ever written?!), which incidentally O’Connor will star in at Leicester Curve next year. Regular West Ender Annalene Beechey – in her Proms debut – sang Being In Love, as Marian Paroo dreams of her perfect love in the only song from the stage version of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man that was a ‘developed rewrite’ (of My White Knight) for the film. The ‘Stage to Screen’ segment came to an end with the hilarious Triplets from The Band Wagon, with Fox, Ford and O’Connor dressed as oversized toddlers squabbling amongst themselves, and an energetic version of Sit Down You’re Rockin The Boat with Nigel Richards from the Maida Vale Singers stepping forward for a well-deserved solo spot.

The ‘End of the Golden Age’ – and indeed the end of this Prom – featured selections from Mary Poppins (Jolly Holiday complete with kazoos!), Doctor Dolittle and Jerry Herman’s Hello Dolly, with the full company in Put On Your Sunday Clothes. The company encored appropriately with Hooray for Hollywood, then Caroline O’Connor brought the evening to a triumphant conclusion with Irving Berlin’s anthem to the entertainment industry There’s no business like showbusiness, where she nearly out-Mermaned Ethel in a stunning rendition.

Hooray for Hollywood...and hooray for John Wilson for putting the programme together for an exhaustive third year running. Although not every film song choice convinced this hardened fan of stage musicals, and the small platform space restricted choreography at times, Wilson’s prom was a strictly not-to-be-missed affair. Standing in the arena amongst the ‘real’ Prommers – and they’re a sturdy lot, let me tell you – there was a great atmosphere so close to the stage, and I dare say a fair few of them will be revisiting the show during its Autumn UK tour. Catch them while you can.