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Colm Wilkinson (West End)

Colm Wilkinson, star of the original production of Les Miserables, returns to the West End for a one-off concert at the Lyceum Theatre

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Few if any other singers can effortlessly switch from full voice to falsetto with unwavering power and back again whilst remaining pitch perfect. On Monday Colm Wilkinson proved that, despite being almost in his seventh decade, he could give a lot of much younger singers a run for their money.

He effortlessly glided through some of the most demanding catalogue of male musical theatre popular songs, hardly appearing to tax his still solid and imposing physique. Wilkinson is an Olympic champion weightlifter of the most challenging musical ballads, combined with the most charming warm Irish personality. For his story and joke telling he should probably listen to his oft-quoted wife, and stick with singing to please his audience. But his latest tour is billed as a night of songs and stories, so why not?

He's accompanied by a talented team of seven musicians who follow his powerful voice throughout with a wide-ranging repertoire from rock, through the Bee Gees to the Beatles. A quite heart-rending version of "She's Leaving Home" is dedicated to his daughter's planned move in with her partner. Some of the arrangements were a little unsophisticated, verging on a 'Butlins meets Vegas' sound, but settled back down for the musical theatre numbers.

His backing singers Siobhán Pettit and Áine Whelan doubled as support acts and provided some unremarkable additional musical theatre songs and an ABBA deviation although with somewhat lacklustre performances when compared to our leading man.

Wilkinson is obviously thrilled to be back on stage in London, playing to a house full including many of those who helped his career and worked with him. He thanked them graciously and acknowledged their contribution to his career, for which we are all grateful. "Anthem" from Chess was sung for Sir Tim Rice to show his gratitude.

Who knew he could play the guitar and rock with the best of them? He filled the stage with his voice, which reached every corner of the cavernous Lyceum Theatre.

Wilkinson beautifully delivered one of his own compositions prior to a spine-tingling version of John Lennon's classic "Imagine" as part of a heartfelt but rather unnecessary plea for world peace.

Was it really 28 years ago that he created the role of Jean Valjean at the Barbican? You wouldn't know it. It seemed like yesterday as he donned the jacket and gave the audience exactly what they came for, leaving us all in no doubt that he is still a magnificent performer of musical theatre.

- Barry Honeycombe


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