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Beyond the Barricade (tour – Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Musical theatre is a very odd form of entertainment, when you take the time to analyse it. All kinds of characters – from cats and trains to ogres and witches – in various situations who, for no apparent reason, frequently burst into song. Take away the scenery, props and costumes and the whole thing seems to become even more bizarre. However, what you are left with are some of the finest compositions ever created.

A perfect showcase for these fantastic masterpieces is Beyond The Barricade. It’s now touring for its 12th year, but is still as fresh as it was at its inception, presenting some of the finest music ever to have filled a West End theatre. With just four singers and a band of three there should be potential to disappoint, but the sound that this talented team creates could easily rival a full orchestra and chorus.

Rebecca Vere brings to the stage a huge operatic voice which, in numbers like the title song from Phantom of the Opera, demonstrates both her amazing power and tremendous range. Sharing the female spotlight, but adding a very different vocal dimension, is Katie Leeming who shines just as brilliantly throughout the performance, especially as Mrs Johnstone from Blood Brothers.

David Fawcett takes the role of master of ceremonies for the evening and has a vast knowledge of all things theatrical which he combines with comedy – and then tops it all off with a huge voice. He is just as happy playing Poomba in The Lion King as he is raising the roof as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.

Completing this extremely talented quartet is Andy Reiss who possesses a charismatic stage presence and an incredible rock musical voice that creates a very powerful Judas in “Superstar” from Jesus Christ Superstar. Not content with just blasting out the more rock-style numbers and playing keyboards, he also acts as musical and creative director for the tour.

The simple but effective lighting is supplemented with a large video screen which provides visual backup and affords several opportunities to share with the audience a slide show which gives the whole performance an extremely friendly, almost intimate, feeling.

Showcasing the very best of the West End musicals of the last 30 years or so, together with a sample from their alternative Christmas show, the evening is a tribute to the men and women who have written the timeless classics that ensure the continued success and brilliance of the London musical theatre scene. The extensive tour continues into 2012 and, when it comes your way, “fight” to get a ticket for this dazzling show.


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