by Joanna Trainor
“Colm (Wilkinson) sucks the soul out of you when he sings”. Ramin Karimloo told host Seth Rudetsky on Friday night. Well, there’s also something about Karimloo’s voice that leaves you a bit awe-struck. Opening the show with the song he is perhaps best known for, “Til I Hear You Sing” from Love Never Dies makes everyone in the room holds their breath at the same time.
The Broadway at Leicester Square shows focus on one star, as everyone’s favourite host Rudetsky asks them all the things you’ve wanted to know about them and takes them through a back catalogue of songs that are significant to them. On Karimloo’s evening, we learn about his beginnings in the industry on cruise ships to being asked by Cameron Mackintosh himself to play Jean Valjean on Broadway.
It’s difficult to explain to non-Les Mis dorks the sheer, unadulterated excitement of Karimloo singing “The Confrontation” from the Boublil and Schönberg musical with Jeremy Secomb. Although both of them have performed in the West End cast of Les Mis, they’ve never played Valjean and Javert opposite each other. So when Secomb turned up to support his friend of nearly two decades, Rudetsky was not going to let the opportunity pass him by. And we all just got to sit there and watch the magic happen.
That’s one of the best aspects of the show’s format, because at every performance something different will happen. Secomb just happened to be in the audience the same night I was – how incredibly lucky. Although at the end of the set Karimloo was seen asking if Secomb was free the following day to come along.
Karimloo’s evening did feel slightly less spontaneous than previous Broadway at Leicester Square events. He had rehearsed songs with Emma Kingston and Matt “never been on” Harvey*, who both came on stage to duet with him several times. Rudetsky had to plan around this, and although he must always have some sort of idea in his head about where he wants a show to go, the final product becomes more formulaic than usual.
In saying that, Karimloo had only arrived back in London at 3pm that afternoon after getting up at 4am for a flight from Morocco, so I think we can probably forgive him for having some aspects put in place beforehand.
What was clear from the evening is how well-loved Karimloo is within the industry. In the audience there were three cast mates of his from Pirates of Penzance all the way back in 2001, he and Harvey famously got on like a house on fire during their time in Murder Ballad at the Arts Theatre in 2016 and he and Kingston had recently finished touring Evita in Japan. It’s always nice to know that performers you love, are actually loved by people who know them.
These really are shows for the fans, and that’s just fine with me.
*Matt Harvey was nominated for a Broadway World Understudy award for his role in Murder Ballad despite having never been on. He and Ramin had a series of Instagram videos trying to drum up support for him. What can I say, I’m a proper Ramin nerd.
Broadway at Leicester Square with Ramin Karimloo runs until 6 October.
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