Tuesday, 22 January 2019

REVIEW: Ramin Karimloo: From Now On - The Lowry Theatre, Salford.

There is something especially magical in seeing a performer as talented as Ramin Karimloo in a venue as small and intimate as the Quays Theatre at The Lowry; as he humbly appears onstage to introduce two opening acts, I am baffled to see his face, knowing how often I have marvelled at it through countless viewings of the 25th anniversary editions of Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. Exchanging costumes for casual wear, he smiles, making sure to acknowledge every section of the audience.

As part of the From Now On tour, Karimloo put out an offer online for performers to apply to sing as the band’s opening act. First to perform was Bethan Tomkins, followed by Kizzy Edwards. Tomkins has a powerful voice which clearly has a great capacity to riff and explore around melody, which she exhibited in well thought-out moments. I was extremely impressed by her ability to sustain notes and carry through to the very end of every phrase. Kizzy Edwards was immediately endearing; the manner she went between anecdotes and performing was indicative that she is as full of personality as talent. Playing the piano whilst singing is a feat for any performer and to still be in secondary school, playing to a theatre of audience members who do not recognise you and playing before Ramin Karimloo is enough to terrify anyone: but Edwards held her nerve very, very well. Both Tomkins and Edwards should be extremely proud of themselves. I would even say, as someone who grew up performing, allow yourself to recognise your talent and allow your personalities to come through – you alone are good enough to fill seats.

‘Broadgrass’ was a genre unbeknownst to me and I was made aware of it immediately before Karimloo and the band came on-stage by a lovely and equally enthusiastic audience member. A combination of bluegrass and Broadway, the opening cover of Frozen’s 'Let It Go' explained the style wholly. I was at first confused, because – and I think a lot of musical theatre fans fall victim to this – I really do like the originals. As in – I really, really like the recordings that I’ve heard over and over. That is exactly why the From Now On tour is so refreshing; it brings together something deeply loved and familiar then, keeping all the important parts, shakes the dust off and it transforms, becoming something more palatable folk, but inherently theatrical.

The band, made up of Nick, Georgina, Alan and Serge, are equally as talented in their own instrumentation – the occasional onstage liaison about what song should come next or reference to an earlier joke was warming and really made the performance seem effortless for them. The band and Karimloo communicated like old friends and pointed light-hearted jokes at each other – and, occasionally, at us, when suggested to visit ‘Ramsbottom’, or as Karimloo attempted to enunciate ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ in an excessively British manner.

Leading the set with musical theatre and finishing with their own written songs seemed to work as a large metaphor for the gig in relation to Karimloo’s identity – you began with an understanding of his musical theatre career, but as time passed you noticed how he spoke as himself, telling stories about his career and his mother, wife and child. I choicelessly cried through ‘Til I Hear You Sing' and I spent the rest of the show in awe at how well they communicated on stage, the effortlessness with which they moved between genres and how Karimloo and the rest of the band immediately made the audience feel included in the music.

Reviewer - Jessica Wiehler
on - 21/1/19

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