From the moment that he took the stage in the Theatre at the newly revamped Star Casino on Broadbeach, Ramin Karimloo exuded the kind of charming, effortless performance that has made him an international name. Presenting with a six piece orchestra and supported by Australian musical superstar Anna O’Byrne, Karimloo walked us through a veritable smorgasbord of musical theatre hits that made him a powerhouse. The audience was also treated to some of his own catalogue, self written numbers from his albums.
Opening the show with numbers from his hit turn in Evita as Che, and a stirring bluegrass rendition of ‘Anthem’ from Chess. Karimloo then bantered happily with the audience, exchanging jokes and highlighting a humbleness and self deprecating humour that had the audience in stitches. Indeed it was this that was probably the most striking part of the evening, the small anecdotes and stories, little jokes about his life and a humbleness and honesty that seemed to transform the huge venue into the tiniest and most intimate of spaces.
The most powerful performances of the night were given over to just Ramin Karimloo, his guitar, and his Omni mic. The rendition of ‘Old Man River’ at the encore was breathtaking. It felt as if the air had been sucked out of the room, as he stood bathed in a single spot of light and performing with the type of ease and honesty that is the hallmark of a true star.
A star in her own right, Anna O’Byrne held forth with some of her own better known solo work, and her first half duet from Love Never Dies was gorgeous. Settling in comfortably in the second half, O’Byrne performed a jazzy version of ‘He Loves Me’, and then paid stunning tribute to Dame Julie Andrews with one of the best live performances of ‘The Sound Of Music’ that I have ever heard. Her final duet, a stripped back version of ‘Eidelweiss’ was simply breathtaking, before she sat back and provided some impromptu backing vocals for ‘Muddy Waters’ from Big River that had the audience clapping along.
Musical Direction by Brad Miller, leading the small orchestra on piano was largely well done. The arrangements of some classic Broadway hits to give the a more intimate, often country bluegrass feeling was inspired. In particular the reworking of ‘Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’, that showed off not only the orchestra to it’s fullest potential, but also gave Karimloo full scope to showcase his versatility as a vocalist. There were moments where the orchestra was not totally in sync, especially in the first half of the concert, but these moments seemed to settle towards the end, and Karimloo shrugged them off with a laugh and and a joke.
Sometimes it can feel like Australia can be quite isolated from the rest of the world, especially in terms of accessing this calibre of Broadway and West End talent, which is such a crime. This concert, although a whirlwind tour, is an extraordinary opportunity to get a glimpse at the man who slipped effortlessly behind the mask of the Phantom and powered his way to stardom. For musical theatre fans it is a night at the theatre you will not soon forget. Catch the Melbourne and Sydney performances while you can.
Ramin Karimloo in concert with special guest Anna O’Byrne
Melbourne: Wednesday 20th June, Hamer Hall, 8pm
Sydney Saturday 23rd June, State Theatre, 8pm