Beyond the Barricade is celebrating its 20th anniversary season touring a show essentially based on the success of Les Miserables.
The two male singers, David Fawcett and Andy Reiss, both have long experience of the original show itself and the subsequent spin-off tour. That Les Mis continues to waft its magic was not in doubt when we came to the final and extended section of the evening.
However, the most notable feature earlier on was the wide variety in quality of the music performed rather than the quality of the performances, which were never in doubt.
They opened with excerpts from Miss Saigon. It is difficult to believe the musical came from the same stable as Les Mis so predictable is its composition. It seemed equally strange to put masterpieces like West Side Story and Chicago alongside tunes from Disney films and the more recent Hamilton. By comparison the scores of Phantom of the Opera and Jesus Christ: Superstar shone as beacons of excellence.
The other point of interest was what was missing. As an overview of the last half-century or so of musical theatre there was no reference to Stephen Sondheim – surely one of the greatest composers of musicals in living memory? One can only assume there are problems with copyright here which prohibit the use of songs from Little Night Music or Sweeney Todd.
The musical accompaniment did its best but as David Fawcett remarked, three musicians can hardly make up for a forty piece orchestra. But what they lacked in number they make up for in volume.
Another twenty years? Quite possibly given the on-going enthusiasm and, thankfully, the new works which continue to inspire live audiences, even if not every new work is a masterpiece. By Brian Hick.