In a rare treat for those of us out in the regions, London’s now definitive “Phantom” (playing the role in both Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original The Phantom of the Opera and its follow-up Love Never Dies) Ramin Karimloo has ventured out to the provinces on a short tour prior to returning to the west end to take over as ‘Jean Valjean’ in Les Miserables.
Headlining his own show, Iranian born Canadian Ramin, proves that he needs neither that mask, nor Lloyd Webber’s lavish settings to command the stage and thrill his audience. With a warm and engaging personality and powerhouse voice, he effortlessly charms the crowd, and on several occasions earns spontaneous standing ovations from his ever-growing legion of fans. Most effectively in his rendition of “Bring Him Home” from Les Mis, “Why God Why?” (Miss Saigon), the title song from The Phantom of the Opera and the sublime “Till I Hear You Sing” from Love Never Dies.
Backed by the London Concert Orchestra, conductor David Shrubsole and members of Capital Voices, we are treated to a varied programme of musical styles, from light jazz, with “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and “Brother, Can you Spare a Dime?”, through Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and Sunset Boulevard to brand new material featured on Ramin’s upcoming solo album.
Joined on stage by guest star, Celia Graham (who played Christine opposite Ramin in both Phantom and Love Never Dies), both perform best with the more contemporary musical material where they do not need to hold back the power in their voices, and their duets, especially “All I Ask of You” and “Too Much In Love to Care” (from Phantom and Sunset respectively) are fine examples.
Britain’s Got Talent star, 16 year old Olivia Jade Archbold makes the most of her chance in the spotlight with two numbers which show off her vocal talents to full effect.
The one fly in the ointment is the quality of the sound at Southampton which lets the orchestra down, leaving the output sounding thin, lacking the vital “oomph” needed to do justice to Lloyd Webber’s full bodied overtures – most noticeably in “The Coney Island Waltz”.
Still, this does not detract from the mesmerising central performance of Mr Karimloo. Let’s hope he does not stay ‘hidden’ in the west end for too long!