Posts Tagged ‘Ramin Karimloo’

Ramin Karimloo’s “Thank You” Gig

Helsbrownie was one of the lucky few chosen to attend Ramin Karimloo’s special performance last night.  150 fans were invited to an intimate show as a way of thanking them for their loyalty and patience, since the release date of his new CD has been delayed more than once.  Here is her exclusive report:

You don’t get much for free these days, so when someone offers you something for nothing, I find it best to grab it with both hands.  On that basis, Monday night found me in a hot and sweaty basement bar near Oxford Street awaiting Ramin Karimloo’s “thank you” gig.

My verdict: anyone heading to the upcoming tour is in for a real treat.  We heard a few songs from the album including Constant Angel and Coming Home as well as a new composition, tentatively titled Here I Go, which has a Sheytoons-esque feel.  I was thrilled to hear some Sheytoons material which I hadn’t been expecting, given Hadley Fraser’s absence. But the highlights for me were the covers.  Everyone went mad for Raining in Baltimore by the Counting Crows, but my personal favourite ended the night: Green Day—Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).  The song suits Ramin’s voice beautifully, with a little country music addition in the middle by one of his guitarists.  Ramin stayed away from any musical theatre numbers, which was the right choice as they wouldn’t really have suited the venue, although Bring Him Home would have been stunning in the intimate space.

I think Ramin’s voice is incredible.  His ability to adapt to different musical styles effortlessly puts him in a class above other performers who try to vary their repertoire.  He is a performer comfortable in his own skin and clearly has a genuine relationship with his band, thus creating a lovely atmosphere for the audience.  There was an awful lot of talent on the stage—the band included two guitarists, keyboard, percussion, two violins and a cello, as well as Ramin varying between guitar, banjo and keyboard.  I very much hope some, if not all, are joining him on tour.

Ramin had asked that no-one record the gig (not that this stopped at least one disrespectful guy) and instead passed round his own video camera.  It is definitely worth keeping an eye out for that official footage to appear, once he has edited it.

Overall, I was very impressed by Ramin’s performance and his general attitude.  While he clearly used the gig as a rehearsal for his upcoming tours, he was generous not to charge for entry and he obviously spent a lot of time organising it—he had to send around 150 individual emails to those of us attending.  Most impressively, at the end, he stood at the door and said goodbye to everyone individually—like a line-up at a wedding!  When I approached, he knew my name (I cannot understand how) and seemed genuinely keen to know if I’d enjoyed the gig. Suffice to say I left on a high, both from that meeting and from the music.

Roll on the tour!

Thank you, helsbrownie!   We’re grateful to you for sharing your experience, not to mention envious of your good fortune!

Something Phantastic This Way Comes

This past year, I’ve had a number of guest bloggers contribute to The Ugly Bug Ball.  It’s fun for me to let others do the work!  Here’s a review of Love Never Dies from my friend Dragonfly (aka Nelia).

“Try to deny it

And try to protest

But love won’t let you go

Once you’ve been possessed”

First, may I say that the direct feed of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies to cinemas was simply STUNNING! It was fun and exciting to share this special event with a dozen friends in Denver.  I trust that my review can be fair and objective as I also had the opportunity to see the original London production several times, as well as viewing this filmed version of the Melbourne production twice.

I was personally fascinated by the grainy film clips in the video introducing “The Coney Island Waltz” for the 2009 London press release.  Between Ramin Karimloo’s poignant “Till I Hear You Sing” video and the Waltz, I was immediately hooked on the show’s premise.  The draw was so powerful; I simply had to go the London to see this production with Ramin and to meet him.  I adored seeing Love Never Dies and have been a loyal supporter of the production and cast since it was introduced.

The London production of Love Never Dies gave me the impression that the sparsely furnished and populated sets had “tour” in mind.  Lots of digital projections lent an air of shadowy nostalgia with the funky, vintage Coney Island film footage.  Overall, my memory of seeing LND is essentially grey tones, muted colors and some bright metallic elements.  Perhaps if the Australian production’s imaginative and colorful stage/costume design had been introduced in London, the show would still be successfully running at the Adelphi, and perhaps on Broadway.

The Carousel (Australia)

Carousel in The Coney Island Waltz (Australia)

A vibrant, beautifully crafted and edited film,  Love Never Dies has a good balance of close-ups and long shots; the Felini-esque result doesn’t look or feel like a stage production, but somehow more expansive than the physical limitations a theatrical stage would impose.  This LIVE performance (not dubbed) was filmed over four days, and includes some minimal audience response.  The original cast score, which was recorded a year before the London opening, is beautiful, brilliant, and sophisticated.  It’s a magical, musical rollercoaster ride of intrigue, passion, kidnapping, mystery, and secrets revealed.

The Coney Island Waltz (Australia)

The Coney Island Waltz (Australia)

The basic plot remains essentially the same as the original London production, with a few important changes.  I really liked the new opening scenes:  Phantom performs “Till I Hear You Sing” in the Prologue; then the story opens with “The Coney Island Waltz” in present time, which I think provides a positive and energetic momentum, allowing the story to unfold seamlessly, rather than having London’s essentially depressing, bleak look-back on what had been—before the tragedy…

It would be difficult to discuss all of the wonderful scenes here, so I’ve selected one, from both productions, that stands out:  “The Beauty Underneath.”

The Beauty Underneath

The Beauty Underneath (Australia)

Australia:  A beautiful and fascinating, complex forest of structural elements, and tall glass cases containing a variety of living creatures from a mermaid, to freaks and oddities of all sorts.  I especially liked having a stage full of ensemble players, which lent a frenetic energy and dynamic to the scene as a whole.

The Beauty Underneath (London)

The Beauty Underneath (London)

London:  The Aerie, Phantom’s workshop high above Phantasma, featured many of his bizarre magical, mechanical, and artistic creations.  Phantom and Gustave are essentially alone on stage for much of this scene.

THE PLAYERS

Ben Lewis (Australia) has a trained operatic voice; he’s not a copy of Ramin, but stands firm on his own merit.  Ben’s delivery is technically precise, he’s an intense, anguished, mysterious, menacing, and remote Phantom – reminds me a bit of Gary Oldman’s strangely sensual Dracula when gliding around in his elegant full length robe.

In this filmed version, we don’t get much of a look at Phantom’s disfigurement, which is disappointing, especially after all the time and energy spent in creating and applying the make-up and complicated prosthetics.  We want to see what all the fuss is about…

Anna O'Byrne and Ben Lewis in the Australia production

Anna O'Byrne and Ben Lewis (Australia)

Ramin Karimloo’s unique voice is unequaled in its straightforward, energetic raw and sensual passion, untrained rock delivery, and uninhibited honesty resonating on a primal level right into my heart…

Anna O’Byrne (Australia) and Sierra Boggess (London) are equally excellent as Christine.  Each is classically trained, beautiful, feminine, and comfortable in the trappings of the Victorian era costumes and hairdos.

Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo (London)

Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo (London)

Sharon Millerchip (Australia) is a perky, petite, energetic, talented dancer and singer with a broad emotional range, and perfectly cast as Meg Giry, Ooh La La Girl.

Sharon Millerchip as Meg (Australia)

Sharon Millerchip as Meg and the Ooh La La Girls in Only For You (Australia)

I’m passionate about film; I enjoy comfortable stadium seating and the magic of an image flickering on the silver screen in the dark.  Being on the less than tall side, I’m generally plagued with a “HEAD” obscuring view of the stage, especially when I’ve spent $100 for a theatre ticket.  I believe that digital technology has now opened up a new avenue, offering an unequaled opportunity to experience stage productions and other special events via live feed and edited film, and it’s definitely here to stay.  I’ll line up early and often to enjoy an unobstructed view for under $20.

Australia’s Love Never Dies run is coming to a close; we’re so fortunate that a record of this amazing production has been captured, and that we can own a piece of it via this filmed version.  I think the possibility of a Broadway run at this point is remote—the success of the DVD could change that outcome.

I’m in LOVE with LOVE on stage and screen….

Thank you, Dragonfly!  Your passion certainly comes through here.  Love Never Dies has its US DVD release on May 29, 2012.

All the images used here are from press sources.  The Australian production photos were taken by Jeff Busby.  No copyright infringement is intended.

Hello, New Fans!

Right now, The Phantom of The Opera at the Royal Albert Hall is airing on my PBS station.  It’s a pledge break, so I’m using the time to say hello to all the American fans who are just discovering Ramin Karimloo (Rah-MEEN CARE-em-loo), Hadley Fraser, and the lovely Sierra Boggess (bah-GUESS) tonight.  I can tell from the sudden upsurge in my visitor stats that lots of folks are searching for information about these talented actors.  You’re going to find entire tumblr sites devoted to Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser. These two have an avid fan base!  The best way to zero in on these actors here is to visit my “west end index” page (above).  This is because I bounce around between many topics, so if you’re not interested in book reviews, old TV westerns or farm animals, don’t despair.

Lots of people this weekend are searching for the answer to this question: why didn’t Michael Crawford sing during the encore?  The most common answer I read during the days following the live broadcast was that he was too emotional and overwhelmed by the audience’s response.  I also read that he was saving his voice, since he was appearing in another West End musical.  I honestly don’t know if either of these are correct.  I do know that many people were disappointed.

By the way, Hadley Fraser is one of my favorite performers on twitter.  The day the Phantom DVD was released in the US, he tweeted his apology for Raoul’s “guyliner.”  I love his self-deprecating sense of humor.  On my small, crappy television, the guyliner isn’t so bad, but so many of the wonderful production details are lost, especially with the costumes.  I’m so glad I went to see it at the cinema in October.

So, thanks for visiting The Ugly Bug Ball, and be sure to say hello.  Please leave a comment!

Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo, The Phantom of the Opera, The Music of Night

Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo

Les Misérables: The Day of The Understudies!

Once again, my friend Scolytinae brings us a review of the West End production of Les Misérables, after her excellent piece on the version with Alfie Boe as Valjean last autumn.  She and her husband braved the bad winter weather to see Ramin Karimloo in the role, only to be met with a few surprises:

Let’s be honest, you don’t actually need an excuse for a repeat visit to Les Misérables, but I must admit that the prospect of seeing Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean persuaded us to make a return trip only 4 short months after our last excursion.  So you can imagine our disappointment when on arrival at Queen’s Theatre, we were greeted with notices in the foyer stating that due to the indisposition of Ramin Karimloo, the role of Jean Valjean would be played by Christopher Jacobsen.

Settled in our seats, we philosophically decided that “these things happen.” As a Twitter user I knew that Ramin’s recent Japanese tour had taken a lot out of him and that he was struggling, but then came an announcement that the roles of Marius and Enjolras would also be played by understudies.  We looked at each other—this would definitely be a different show to the one we had seen last September!

However, I would now like to go on record to say that this was one of the finest performances I have ever seen.  Christopher Jacobsen was simply stunning.  A powerful actor as well as singer, he brought us a Valjean of contrasts—burning passion at the injustices he suffered, yet a quiet dignity as he determined to throw off his past, start again, and make things right.  Opposite the magnificent Hadley Fraser as Javert, it felt like a whole new dynamic had appeared as the two of them faced off against each other, on occasion speaking rather than singing some of their lines as they circled each other, vying for control of the situation.

I thought Hadley was fabulous when I saw him last year, but over the ensuing months, his Javert has evolved—still intractable and inexorably driven, but now almost a sense of vulnerability.  Valjean’s manner and treatment of him was just so far outside his view of the natural order that he simply could not cope.  There was a particularly poignant moment during the suicide scene where he sings “I am the law and the law is not mocked.” At this point, he valiantly tries to regain his control and composure by pulling his lapels together and buttoning up that iconic overcoat—magic.  Thunderous applause greeted both his featured songs, and rightly so. This man is a true performer.

Marius was played by the impossibly cute Fra Fee—and what a fabulous performance it was.  Such depth and emotion from one so young; I am not ashamed to admit to a few tears after “A Little Fall of Rain,” beautifully portrayed opposite the superb Alexia Khadime.  I’m sure my hubby won’t mind me saying that he reached for the tissues too at this point!  What a beautiful voice this young man has, and such presence on stage.  I sincerely hope he’s a name to watch out for in the future.

Enjolras was beautifully played by Scott Garnham, who led his students with an understated strength and authority.  I just loved the interaction between all the students, and Adam Linstead’s Grantaire was a triumph.  In fact, I was so impressed by everyone who stepped up to fill roles vacated by the leads.  If I have to be critical, and maybe I should to prove that I can be objective where Les Mis is concerned, the only weak spot was the youngster who played Gavroche. Whether it was down to nerves, I don’t know, but he had a rather shaky start, rushing some of his lines and throwing some away completely.  He did soon settle down, and there was a huge gasp from the audience during the scene where he was shot whilst collecting ammunition.  You know, I must be getting old, because both he and the young girl playing Cosette seemed so small and fragile, almost like they should be at home tucked up in bed rather than up onstage!!

If there were any negative vibes emanating from people who bought tickets expecting to see Ramin Karimloo, then Christopher Jacobsen certainly wasn’t affected by them.  It must be a daunting feeling to step onstage knowing that many people in the audience wish you weren’t there.  Christopher simply took the audience by storm, and seemed genuinely overwhelmed by his rapturous reception at the end.  So much so that, after taking center stage for a few seconds, he called the cast back onstage to join him for another bow, to happily acknowledge the lengthy standing ovation which was a fitting end to a truly incredible show.  A day of understudies it may have been, but it is a tribute to the depth of talent in British musical theatre that this didn’t matter one iota—we heard the people sing, and they were fantastic!

Thank you, Scolytinae!  It sounds like a great afternoon of theatre.  It looks like we’ll have to add Christopher Jacobsen, Fra Fee, and Scott Garnham to our growing list of favorite West End actors.

See also: Beg, Borrow or Steal to See Les Misérables

My Year End Wrap Up 2011

Another year comes to a close, so now it’s time to reflect back over what entertained me in 2011.  I just looked at the wrap up from last year, to get an idea of how far I’ve come in twelve months.  It’s clear that my focus has shifted in two directions.   I spent a large part of this year with my head in London, after watching the 25th anniversary concert of Les Misérables in March.  I also headed back to the past in a big way, once I started watching RetroTV and MeTV during a summer of unbearable television on the big networks.   These two obsessions have a major influence on my best and worst list of 2011.

Best Books:  Most of the novels I liked this year were written for children and teens.  I particularly enjoyed Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (the 2011 Newbery Award winner) and Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John.  Guitar Boy by MJ Auch and Countdown by Deborah Wiles weren’t perfect, but they each stayed with me long after reading.  My favorite non-fiction book was The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, which managed to make the periodic table interesting to someone who barely paid attention to science in high school.  The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan was a little book filled with some gems, and it goes into the “hard to categorize” category.  The funniest books were Demitri Martin’s This is A Book, and Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz & David Hayward.  The biggest disappointments were The Sherlockian by Graham Moore and The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz.  The lesson here is to give up on Sherlock Holmes in books and stick to the BBC.

Best Television:  The Big Bang Theory remains my favorite sitcom, just for being consistently funny.  The best line: “Let’s hurry up and watch this Star Wars blu-ray before George Lucas changes it again!” (Sorry for the paraphrase.)  NCIS consistently underwhelmed me, and I’m can’t help wondering if I’ll give up on it soon.  In spite of my declaration to boycott Masterpiece on PBS, I still watched and enjoyed Downton Abbey, Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen, Jason Isaac as Jackson Brodie, and the Inspector Lewis mysteries.  I spent my summer wrapped up in the old series Da Vinci’s Inquest, and my winter has been dominated by reruns of The Rifleman.  Overall, the television program with the biggest impact this year was the Les Mis concert on PBS.

Best Twitter:  Last year, Matthew Gray Gubler was my favorite tweeter.  He’s still whimsical and original, but now most of his tweets are links to his tumblr page.  I hate tumbr, so this is a big strike against him.  Sorry, Gube.  West End performer Hadley Fraser can be great on twitter, but he goes quiet for long stretches.  Ramin Karimloo tweets with sincerity, but all those tattoo photos freak me out!  Matt Lucas, Josh Groban and Yigit Pura have been consistently entertaining, and Shah Rukh Khan’s twitter feed has a good balance of the personal and professional.

Best Movies:  I did slightly better than last year getting out to see new films on the big screen.  I really enjoyed X-Men: First Class, The Descendants, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.   I’m not sure The Phantom of The Opera 25th Anniversary simulcast even counts in this category!  At the Frameline Film Festival, I enjoyed Kawa and Spork.  I have many more late 2011 films to see on DVD when they’re released in 2012.

Best DVDs:  I watched a lot of bad DVDs this year, just because they featured actors that I liked.  I really need to get over this habit!  While not necessarily bad, I endured a lot of fighting and CGI in movies like Thor, Captain America, and Centurion, just so I could see actors Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, JJ Feild, and Michael Fassbender.  I tried to watch all ten Best Picture Oscar nominees on DVD, but I faltered at 7½.  I did love The King’s Speech.  I hate to admit it, but I think my most entertaining DVD experience this year was re-watching JJ Abrams’ Star Trek with a friend.

Best StreamingDa Vinci’s Inquest and The Rifleman on hulu were great, even though I was also watching these series on broadcast television.  The worst: when Netflix split their charges for DVDs by mail versus streaming.  I tried a month of streaming only.  It was a disaster.  Nothing I wanted to watch would play without long pauses to reload.  Now that I’m getting DVDs only, the Netflix site doesn’t tell me what is available streaming only.  Netflix, you’ve got a long way to go before you win back my trust.  One free DVD rental for Christmas isn’t enough.

Best TheatreLes Mis and The Phantom of the Opera, obviously, even though I didn’t see either show live in an actual theatre.  I had some fun at San Francisco’s BATS Improv, especially seeing their Spontaneous Broadway.

Best Music:  I’ve spent most of my time listening to Josh Groban, Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons (Hadley Fraser and Ramin Karimloo), and Johnny Crawford.   Another favorite is the song Electricity from Billy Elliot (the stage musical).  Still, nothing beats Hadley Fraser singing Again.  The worst music this year?  Whatever was playing in the trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Gack.

Best Music Video:  It really doesn’t count, but I can’t help it.  I love Josh Groban Sings Kanye West Tweets.

Best Entertainment News:  Following the news from London about West End performers from the Les Mis concert has entertained me at least as much as the concert itself.  It brought me new friendships with fellow fans from all over, and it kicked off the practice of having guest bloggers here at The Ugly Bug Ball.  If I’m blogging less about the West End, it’s only because things are pretty quiet right now.  2012 promises some guest reviews of Ramin Karimloo as Valjean.

Entertainer of The Year:  Last year was easy.  This year, it’s difficult to choose.  Johnny Crawford is great, but he came along late, at the end of November.  I blogged the most often about Hadley Fraser.  He provided me with a rich variety of entertainment, between the Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera performances, the online news and tweets, the music recordings and the YouTube videos.  Still, Ian Tracey beats Fraser out for sheer volume.  Tracey has been working steadily since he was a teenager, and even without an online presence (no tweets, fansites, or facebook page) he provided me with the most hours of entertainment.  I’m going to have to declare a tie between Hadley Fraser and Ian Tracey.  Congratulations, guys.  There’s no prize, but you get my sincere thanks.  I’m sorry I can’t promise you my exclusive loyalty, because there’s always going to be a Johnny-Come-Lately waiting in the wings!

Hadley Fraser and Ian Tracey

Hadley Fraser as Grantaire in the Les Mis concert; Ian Tracey as Adam Worth in Sanctuary

Next: What I’m excited about in 2012.  Happy New Year, everyone!

Phantom of the Opera 25: The DVD

The DVD version of The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary at the Royal Albert Hall was released this week, but not in the United States.  We have to wait until February 7th, which I’ve already ranted about.  I recruited two UK friends who’ve guest blogged here already to help me out once again.  Here they share their impressions of the new DVD.

Scolytinae:

My hubby and I were unable to make the trip to the Royal Albert Hall to experience The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary in person, so the next best thing was to go to our local cinema and be a part of the worldwide live broadcast on 2 October 2011. It was quite something to sit there and think that friends were sitting thousands of miles away, at a different time of day, doing exactly the same thing!

Obviously you miss the buzz of excitement and anticipation as the auditorium fills and the orchestra begins to tune up—people arriving juggling buckets of popcorn and giant hot dogs doesn’t  have quite the same atmosphere! However, when the lights dimmed and the show started, we were all quickly transported to the world of the Opera Populaire.

Having never seen the show before, I can honestly say it was a wonderful experience. I have no point of reference, but I thought Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess and Hadley Fraser were absolutely stunning and, considering the tight time frame everyone was working to, the whole show was an amazing spectacle and if anything major went wrong, I didn’t notice!

The only minor criticism was that on occasions, the music seemed far too loud and we lost some of the lyrics, but we put that down to the cinema sound system and hoped it would be an issue that was easily rectified on the DVD.  Strangely, the very clever digital backdrops didn’t come across on camera too well either, becoming pixelated at times and drawing the eye. Other than that, we got to see the performance in all its glory, with just a couple of things which were always going to be destined for the cutting room floor: Hadley backing into a table and the Phantom’s “switch on” candle!

It was a long wait, but the DVD finally dropped through the letterbox on 14th November, and we both settled down for another evening with the Phantom.  Happy to report the sound problems have been fixed, and it was a delight to hear everything. The editing is good, and the use of multiple angles actually adds to some scenes, bringing your attention to some action that you may have missed before and allowing a much better shot of that candle lighting incident.  (It looks good now, and the table incident has been omitted entirely!) It was also nice to have periodic shots of the fabulous orchestra too. Sadly, those digital backdrop panels still didn’t come across at their best, although they were improved.

An interesting and informative behind-the-scenes style documentary was included as a bonus feature. It was nice to hear from the technical side of the production team for a change, outlining the logistical problems of mounting a full stage production in a concert hall, and watching the talented make up artist at work.

Not having seen the show live, the DVD is, for me at least, a much improved version of the cinematic experience. It is a beautiful record of a truly extraordinary theatrical event, and should definitely be a part of every musical theatre lover’s collection.

*   *   *   *

Helsbrownie, who attended the live performance at the Royal Albert Hall, shared her reactions via twitter as she watched the DVD for the first time.  Click twice to read version with bigger print.

Thank you, Scolytinae and Helsbrownie!  Now we’ll be counting down the days until we can get our hands on the US version of the Phantom DVD.

Some folks might not be aware that the UK version has a region coding that makes it impossible to play on a US player.  Region-free DVD players can play all or most DVDs, and some new computers will allow you to reset the region coding but only a few times.  For example, my new laptop allows me five resets.  The risk is losing track and ending up with a DVD drive that won’t play anything else you own or rent.

The Phantom Unmasked!

A guest review from Scolytinae of Ramin Karimloo’s concert in Birmingham on Saturday, October 29, 2011.

A Night With The Phantom programWhat would it take to prise you away from your fireside on a damp and blustery October Saturday evening? For me, it was the prospect of spending “A Night with the Phantom” as the man himself, Ramin Karimloo, stepped out from behind the mask to perform as himself without the aid of character, makeup, costume, sets or an ensemble.

Birmingham’s Symphony Hall is an impressive venue, and its 4 levels were soon almost full.  Even the balconies behind the stage were occupied, prompting Ramin to ask if the audience all the way up there could hear him okay.

The evening got off to a good start with the excellent Manchester Concert Orchestra treating us to the lovely overture from South Pacific.  Then the star of the evening made his rapturously received entrance singing “Some Enchanted Evening.”  From here, the concert spanned a wide variety of songs and, as is the very nature of a “songs from the shows” format, some I enjoyed, some were fabulous, and some not so good.  A special mention must go to Capital Voices, whose 4 part harmony rendition of “Moon River” was truly lovely.

As the news that Ramin was going into Les Misérables in November had officially broken, there was a change to the published running order as “Stars” was abandoned in favour of “Bring Him Home.”  We were hushed in anticipation as the song began; after all, this is the signature song from the show and the one that every Valjean is judged on.  We have all heard Alfie Boe’s beautiful version, so the question was—how would Ramin do?  The answer—very well indeed.  He has just the right quality to his voice for this quiet, haunting ballad, and it was a lovely performance.  The only criticism—that final note went a little astray, but given the proper context and rehearsal time, I feel sure he will be a good Valjean and bring his own intensity to the role.  He admitted himself that he has a lot of work to do over the next 4 weeks to get ready, and we all wish him well.

The most popular part of the evening was, perhaps not surprisingly, the selection from The Phantom of the Opera.  I felt that this was where guest star Celia Graham really came into her own. The fact that she had been Christine opposite Ramin in both Phantom and Love Never Dies gave the performances a polish and confidence that some of the other numbers lacked, and her beautiful, clear voice filled the auditorium at the end of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

As a shameless plug for his first solo CD, due out in January, a couple of songs were included to showcase the album and to show a completely different side to Ramin.  These were enthusiastically received by the large audience.

Ramin closed the show with “’Til I Hear You Sing” from Love Never Dies, a beautiful ballad that he has most definitely made his own. A rapturous standing ovation brought him back on stage and, after checking with us that we were okay for time to get our trains and buses, he gave us an encore in the shape of the beautiful “Music of the Night.”

Overall it was a really enjoyable evening.  Things moved along at a brisk pace with guests breaking up the time on stage nicely and Ramin occasionally sharing an anecdote or story with the audience and, while raising the microphone stand after their appearances, quipping “no-one’s THAT short!”

The orchestra was fantastic, if a little too loud on occasion, meaning we sometimes lost the voices underneath the soaring music. Apparently this wasn’t a problem for my husband who, as a late addition to the proceedings, was sitting out at the side of the auditorium and not with me.  Obviously the amps must point straight out from the stage!

However, this certainly didn’t spoil the evening in any way—the man came out from behind the mask and did a great job.

Thank you, Scolytinae, for another great review!  (She reviewed Les Mis last month.)  We’re looking forward to your impressions of Ramin Karimloo in Les Misérables, when the time comes.

YouTube videos from the Birmingham concert:

Ramin Karimloo and Celia Graham

Music of the Night

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