Of all the genre-fusions that have infiltrated the circuit over the years, Bluegrass and Broadway might be the most unorthodox. However, when Ramin Karimloo and The Broadgrass Band arrived in Leeds for the Yorkshire leg of their UK tour, it took less than an hour to convince the waiting crowd that it was a match made in heaven. If anyone could make such wildly divergent styles comfortable bedfellows it was Ramin Karimloo, whose Tony nomination for ‘Best Actor In A Musical’ proves he can pretty much do anything.
Before Ramin, Rob Richings’ laid back folksy ballads perfectly set the tone for the evening. Though the polar opposite of Ramin’s theatre stylings, the set’s simple melodies and quintessentially English nature kept the audience onside throughout, allowing a politically charged finale dedicated to Syrian refugees to feel inviting and authentic. His easy charm and sparse instrumentation was an instant win from start to finish.
Ramin was incandescent. Despite the presence of only a violin, cello, box drum and guitar, the musical theatre tracks felt huge and operatic. ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Mis was the perfect ode to one of his most iconic roles. Undoubtedly though, no matter the genre of the song, what stood out most were the vocals. What was soft and lilting for ‘Hushabye Mountain’ was deep and soaring for ‘Oh What A Beautiful Morning’. When the time came for him to reference perhaps his most iconic role, the full force of his classical training came into play. When the opening chords of ‘Til I Hear You Sing’ from Love Never Dies rang out across the crowd, the silence was absolute. Without the mask or the cloak, with only the barest accompaniment, the famed Phantom of the opera house was standing on stage, conjured into being by voice alone.
The skill was undeniable, proving that you can take a man out of the West End, but you can never take the West End out of the man.
(Image: Broadway Style Guide)