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Ramin Karimloo with Seth Rudetsky at Leicester Square Theatre

Ramin Karimloo
Ramin Karimloo

Never, ever make assumptions. Not that you do: that was more a reminder to myself more than anything. I had been told about Ramin Karimloo’s concert at the Royal Festival Hall at the start of 2018, which included a good amount of country and bluegrass music – there is a difference between the two, but as neither featured at all in this concert, I won’t explore either genre any further. “I’m glad you like showtunes,” mused Karimloo, just before launching into another musical theatre number.

The guitars came out nonetheless, and for ‘It All Fades Away’, a tune from Jason Robert Brown’s The Bridges of Madison County, a banjo. Karimloo was ably supported by Matt Harvey on guitar, and also Emma Kingston, apparently hand-picked by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to play the title role in an international touring production of Evita (Karimloo played the role of Che in the Japan leg of said tour). Jeremy Secomb reprised his Inspector Javert against Karimloo’s Jean Valjean for ‘The Confrontation’ number in Les Misérables, preceded by an unexpectedly hilarious rendering of Fantine by Kingston, inspired (or so we were informed) by Jenna Russell.

Events like these are a bit of a balancing act, because while the music does some of the talking, there’s also conversation to be had. There’s the group of hardcore fans who know all there is to know about a person, and then those in attendance who have either been brought along by their friend or spouse, or otherwise have a general interest in musical theatre. For instance, I didn’t know anything about Karimloo’s experiences performing on cruise ships, or about his childhood years in Canada.

Seth Rudetsky, hosting the concert, was up and down almost like a yo-yo, moving from the piano stage right to the comfy seats stage left and back again as the show flitted between song and conversation. The sound quality was very good throughout – some of the tunes, such as the opening number, ‘Til I Hear You Sing’ from Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies, had soaring melodies but it never felt overwhelming. Perhaps the acoustic arrangements helped: a guitar version of ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Misérables proved particularly haunting.

The show insists it’s all impromptu, including the choice of songs, but my proverbial eyebrow was raised on seeing a good few pages of sheet music on the piano. But, especially in the informal chatter, it does well otherwise to give the impression that it’s unscripted, generally speaking (whisper it, but I doubt whether a host of Rudetsky’s calibre would really have forgotten the names of Karimloo’s guests – and industry colleagues – except to, as it successfully does, maximise comic effect).

Karimloo’s voice, as ever, is in fine form, and the audience is treated to a broad variety of showtunes, from ‘I Am A Pirate King’ from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance to ‘Make Them Hear You’ from Ragtime. When the lights went up for a brief spell of audience participation (nothing to make the bashful squirm, merely a warm invitation to ask Karimloo a question directly), the almost inevitable cry went up, “What next?” Well, there are things being filmed, and other things under discussion, and we’ll hear about it all in due course.

There’s a cheekiness about Rudetsky’s interviewing style, which won’t appeal to everyone: I hasten to add that he had a good rapport with both Karimloo and the audience. This was a very pleasant evening out, and a unique opportunity to get to know one of the most versatile musical theatre actors of our time.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

International theatre star Ramin Karimloo returns to London for Seth Rudetsky’s Broadway @ Leicester Square Theatre concert series for 3 intimate performances, produced by Mark Cortale.

Karimloo is best known for his Olivier nominated performance in Love Never Dies and The Phantom of The Opera on the West End and the Broadway revival of Les Miserables (Valjean) for which he received a Tony nomination.

Seth Rudetsky recently starred in a charity gala of his Broadway musical Disaster! in 2016 at Charing Cross Theatre.

LISTINGS INFO
Mark Cortale presents
Broadway @ Leicester Square Theatre

RAMIN KARIMLOO with SETH RUDETSKY as pianist & host

LEICESTER SQUARE THEATRE
6 Leicester Place
London, WC2H 7BX
www.leicestersquaretheatre.com

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