Home » London Theatre Reviews » The Seth Concert Series – James Monroe Iglehart | Review

The Seth Concert Series – James Monroe Iglehart | Review

James Monroe Iglehart is a tour de force off-stage as well as on – recalling huge amounts of detail to each and every anecdote from his illustrious career, he tells stories at such a rapid pace, and with such zeal, that it is all but impossible not to be drawn in, even if he’s talking about the sort of thing that most guests on The Seth Concert Series talk about – overlong audition processes, how they met certain big industry names, and the toll doing eight hours a week on Broadway can take on a person.

James Monroe Iglehart
James Monroe Iglehart
Whatever wasn’t related to theatre bookended the concert, which started with a reference to how Iglehart met his wife (they went to the same high school together, and even sang in the same choir) and how they started a family together, and ended with, this being December, a warm rendering of ‘The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)’. Iglehart has quite the vocal range, gliding through ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Misérables and even ‘The Worst Pies in London’ from Sweeney Todd, usually sung by a woman. Iglehart sang it whilst sharing a stage with Len Cariou at a gala at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, held in honour of Stephen Sondheim’s 85th birthday.

Iglehart was raised in the black church in America, whose gospel choirs comprise three sections – alto, soprano and tenor (that is, no section for baritones) – though he describes himself as a ‘baritenor’. Added to this, his high school concerts would last two and a half hours, which tested the audience of immediate and extended family, but did at least stretch the pupils. Interestingly, it never entered his mind that being a black man would restrict him in terms of what he could do either in life or more specifically in theatre: “I was too egotistical for that.

‘Kite’ from You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown was delivered at an even faster pace than ‘Wait For It’ from Hamilton – or at least it felt faster. I hadn’t heard the latter with just a piano accompaniment before, so that was a novel experience, without the percussion beats that tend to go along with hip-hop music. What has become his signature number from Disney’s Aladdin, the upbeat ‘Friend Like Me’, was delivered with passion and commitment: having won the Tony Award in 2014 for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his role as the Genie, he felt he wanted to give the audience his very best every night (he stayed with the show on Broadway until 2017, after which he joined the cast of Hamilton) – it’s an award-winning performance they paid to see, after all, and so it’s an award-winning performance they deserve.

Hearing Iglehart apologise to his mother and other church friends for the use of an expletive in a number was, for me, a telling reminder of how theatre vocabulary, particularly in more modern musicals, can come across to others who aren’t (global pandemics aside) sat in some theatre or other almost every night. And such is Iglehart’s compelling nature when it comes to telling stories, I think he’d be as good at plays as he is at musicals. A spirited and enjoyable evening.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

James Monroe Iglehart – Tony Award winner as Genie in Disney’s Aladdin, star of the current Broadway cast of Hamilton, and host of HGTV’s Biggest Little Christmas Showdown – headlining a live concert with Seth Rudetsky on Sunday, December 13th.

Mark Cortale Presents

Sunday, December 13th at 8PM EST
Monday, December 14th at 3PM EST

Sunday, December 20th at 8PM EST
Monday, December 21st at 3PM EST

Sunday, December 27th at 8PM EST
Monday, December 28th at 3PM EST

January 2021 lineup announcement coming soon!


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