Review: Beyond the Barricade at Christmas
From the roaring marches of revolution to the dying moments that revel in transforming an audience into one big whimpering, tissue-clutching, wet-faced mess, Les Miserables has over the years become something of the unceasingly popular, paparazzi-hounded celebrity of the musical theatre world. As the musical everyone has heard of but can never pronounce (The Miserables, anyone?), all things and franchises even tangentially attached to Les Mis seem to stir up a frenzy of excitement in the show’s dedicated fan base, from the upcoming film to recent dramatic interpretations of the story. And so at the words Beyond the Barricade at Christmas, a show bound to fuse together all the intensity of Boubil and Schӧnberg's show with tinsel, trees and all things festive, I knew I had to get a ticket.
Made up from four West End performers boasting a staggering collective CV of starring acting and directorial roles in the likes of Cats, Cabaret, South Pacific and of course Les Mis, Beyond the Barricade at Christmas operates as a concert-style production with all the dramatics and hair-raising spectacle of a musical. Taking on medleys of songs from some of the biggest musicals of the past half-century including Phantom of the Opera, Carousel and Jesus Christ Superstar, the need for the performers to possess the elusive triple threat is something of an understatement here. Performing a mini- fast-forwarded version of around six musicals in the space of just two and a half hours, the stars of Beyond the Barricade transmogrify seamlessly between shows and characters, tackling a Sarah Brightman-style high C note one minute, a Liverpudlian twang the next and a unique Frankie Valli sound the next.
Pounding out live all the classics you couldn’t help but notice the audience restraining themselves from singing and swaying along to, what prevented this show from turning into a simple jukebox shindig was the very distinct personalities and styles that came across in each of the four performers. From Rebecca Vere’s show-stopping high notes to David Fawcett’s bassy and full-bodied charisma, Beth Humphries’ pitch-perfect classy charm to Andy Reiss’ edgy and rocky power that came from nowhere to blow right through the theatre, Beyond the Barricade made every song their own, adding a freshness to the tunes so irretrievably lodged in our heads.
Yet, the songs were still lovingly preserved in their original glory, most particularly by the unstoppably brilliant musicians, Dave Williams, Russ Kennedy and David Lane with a little help from performer Andy Reiss too. Playing the rousing tunes normally knocked out by a thirty-piece orchestra, this show proved that it’s amazing what you can do with a couple of keyboards, a guitar and a drum kit. Coupled with a fabulous stage-arrangement including carefully-considered lighting, screen projections and the token choreographed walk to the mic at the moment of dramatic crescendo, it was very easy to be transported straight to the magic of the West End.
And having shaken up your musical theatre senses, Beyond the Barricade also took on the task of warming your Christmas cockles, away from the icy night, with a Christmas sing-song passing through carols, Cliff and the popular festive classics (I think that’s the first time I have ever actually discerned the lyrics to ‘Fairytale of New York’). Stuffed with genuine good-will and more Christmas spice than a fruity mince pie, Beyond the Barricade was the perfect December retreat to get you charged up for Christmas, dying to bellow out ‘One Day More’ all the way home.
For details of the tour of Beyond the Barricade please click here