5th October 2018
This was another in the splendid series of gigs Rudetsky is presenting as ‘later’ night cabarets in the capacious but intimate single-storey basement venue just off the hustle and bustle of the West End’s glittering main piazza. And this time, for the briefest of residencies, we got the lush voice and attractive persona that are Ramin Karimloo. There was, on top of this, plenty of chat: the chemistry between the pair was nice but didn’t quite hit the brilliant level that Seth lately achieved with an earlier guest on his ‘show’. No matter. This was all quite charming and agreeable.
I have to make a personal confession here. Karimloo is one of the few vocalists who can move me to tears: I discovered this when I heard him sing live for the first time, at LMTO’s launch party, where he gave us his ace calling-card, ‘Till I Hear You Sing’ from ‘Love Never Dies’. This number was also chosen to open this evening, and if it wasn’t quite as thrilling as before (he himself subsequently commented that he did not think he’d given of his best in this performance), it nonetheless served as a fine showcase for his range and in particular those dazzling top notes and phenomenal physical support.
He was joined on the platform by strong- and clear-voiced Emma Kingston, with whom he sang a couple of numbers from ‘Evita’, in which he has played Che to some acclaim, and then moved on into far lighter, gentler fare with ‘Hush-a-bye Mountain’ from ‘Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang’. Karimloo is, in addition, a young father himself, and he brings a strong sense of personal commitment to the part of Potts, Jnr.
However, his boldly masculine good-looks, complete with lavishly full and glossily dark hair and beard, with a powerful, gym-developed muscular physique, mark him out as a natural shoo-in for roles like the seductive Phantom of the Opera, whose ‘Music of the Night’ we got done in his trademark confidential-dramatic manner. (If this athletic young man ever brought you Milk Tray, one gets the feeling that he would not stop at one box: he would be power-lifting an entire crate-load of them to your difficult-to-access boudoir.)
More seriously, however, like heart-throb Sinatra before him, Karimloo also has ‘Ol’ Man River’ in his rep, and a tidy job of it he does, too. Even more lovely, though, was his treatment of a slightly less well-known number, from ‘The Bridges of Madison County’. In fact, he really does seem strongest in more contemporary material: I kept waiting for something from his recent West End success in ‘Murder Ballad’ but in vain. Perhaps that will come in his next recital? As it was, ‘It All Fades Away’ was done with theatricality and passion in perfectly balanced symmetry. Delicious.
Emotional directness and honesty are definitely his most striking qualities. His treatment of ‘Bring Him Home’ from ‘Les Miserables’ described this exactly. And then, to put the icing on a wonderful evening, we got the fine encore, from ‘Ragtime’, of ‘Make Them Hear You’. The producer of the recent stunning West End revival of that show, Danielle Tarento, was sat in the audience listening intently: could that number have been aimed at her?