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A Night with the Phantom - Ramin Karimloo (Tour - Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Ramin Karimloo is seen by many as the definitive Phantom, having wowed audiences in Andrew Lloyd Webber's money spinning musical and its ill-fated sequel Love Never Dies. He has performed in front of Royalty and has a huge following, notably on Twitter, so it only seems right that we regional audiences get to see the great man perform outside of London.

I first saw this gifted actor/singer in Miss Saigon on tour and was struck by the emotional intensity that he brought to the role of Chris. His rendition of "Why God Why" was simply stunning and it's something he reprises on this tour, with the same degree of believability and passion.

Ramin is warm and generous to his audience and seems humble, as he gazes around the packed Bridgewater Hall - a venue which suits his powerhouse vocals, as he hits the rafters several times - none more poignantly than during his faultless version of "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables

Les Mis is paid homage to again with the rousing "Do You Hear The People Sing?" which has many in the audience - joining in smiling from ear to ear. Many debate what the X Factor is at this time of year with the tired talent show, currently showing on ITV1. Whatever it is, Ramin has it - because he takes you on a journey through song and the result is quite mesmerising.

The Jazz section in the first half seems completely out of place with the rest of the evening, as the likes of "They Can't Take That Away From Me" actually mask Karimloo's huge voice, rendering the song and the choice of genre totally redundant. Likewise - one his guest stars Ceila Graham (Christine in Phantom for four years) does not do justice to Judy Garland's "The Trolley Song" as it requires her to pull back too much.

All of this is forgotten though by the time that "All I Ask Of You" and the title tracks from the two Phantom musicals are sung, as they are delivered with such precision, clarity and superb diction - that the audience feel compelled to give the first of many standing ovations.

Props go to the brilliant orchestra and backing singers, who bring a real touch of class to the evening. The acoustics in the Hall mean that every note is crystal clear, but the Capital Voices Choir and the Manchester Concert Orchestra rise to the occasion with aplomb.

Karimloo's new material allows him to stretch himself vocally also - including "Coming Home" - which has a killer chorus and an instantly appealing quality to it. His other guest, Liverpool's Olivia Archibold goes down well with the audience with two heart-rending songs; a little breathy at times, but she has great stage presence - post Britain's Got Talent.

Love Never Dies may have left the West End, but from the ashes of this love/hate show - a genuine star is born, and Ramin Karimloo is welcome in the North West again as the audience loved his show stopping concert, as did I.


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