Music Theatre

Ramin Karimloo in Concert with Special Guest Anna O’Byrne review

Mutual love flowed back and forth between stage and audience as Melbourne musical theatre aficionados were treated to a thrilling display of pure talent from Ramin Karimloo and Special Guest Anna O’Byrne.

International musical theatre star Karimloo scored massive applause from the adoring crowd before even singing a note, a terrific achievement for a stage performer without a crossover movie or television profile. As much as the capacity audience came along predestined to love Karimloo, admiration and adoration increased with the opportunity to hear the great man live on stage.

Performing at the front of the stage, and backed by six hardy musicians, Karimloo effectively transformed the grand concert hall to an intimate venue, cultivating the relaxed, amiable vibe of a pub gig. Offsetting a dark three-piece suit with a pale, open necked shirt, Karimloo moved with ease from storytelling to singing to accompanying himself on guitar.

Mixing trademark songs with ones that got away, along with a smattering of his original compositions, Karimloo amazed the audience with vocal heft and soaring high notes. Switching deftly from tender chest voice to exquisitely controlled head voice, the constant characteristic of Karimloo’s singing is the depth of expression he brings to the lyrics. Well-known songs are heard as if for the first time when given his intelligent, nuanced treatment.

Ramin Karimloo (left) in Anastasia

Karimloo teased the local audience with a couple of songs from Broadway musicals that Melbourne is yet to see, opening the show with jaunty balled “Neverland” from Finding Neverland and later sharing the rousing “It All Fades Away” from The Bridges of Madison County.

Early musical theatre favourites included “High Flying Adored” (Evita) and “Anthem” (Chess), both from roles Karimloo has played. From his higher profile roles, Karimloo showed the full beauty of his voice in “Bring Him Home” (Les Misérables) and earned an early standing ovation with spine-tingling act one closer “Til I Hear You Sing” (Love Never Dies).

Melbourne-born actress Anna O’Byrne was an ideal choice for special guest, and not just for having her own background starring in Love Never Dies. An exquisite soprano and stellar actress, O’Byrne matched Karimloo in vocal flair, and the pair enjoyed a warm stage relationship.

Beginning with “Blue Moon,” from her debut album Dream, O’Byrne brought a breathtaking freshness to signature tune “Love Never Dies” and joined with Karimloo for sweet Love Never Dies duet “Once Upon Another Time.” Dressed in a slinky pale blue gown, O’Byrne beamed with pleasure to be singing in her hometown to an audience that included family and friends.

Anna O’Byrne in Love Never Dies

O’Byrne paired with Karimloo again to tell the story in Jason Robert Brown’s “I’d Give It All For You.” In an act two bracket, O’Byrne switched the gender in the title song of She Loves Me, before taking her high notes to the stratosphere with a crystalline rendition of “The Sound of Music,” dedicated to mentor, director and friend, Julie Andrews.

After the shocking admission that Karimloo has never seen the movie “The Sound of Music,” the pair duetted again on a gentle arrangement of “Edelweiss,” simply accompanied by Karimloo on acoustic guitar. Final duet “Muddy Water” was a rockabilly throwback to late 1980s Melbourne favourite Big River.

An expert storyteller in song and speech, Karimloo interspersed his own compositions, enhancing the performances with highly personalised introductions. The full extent of Karimloo’s talent was shown when, at the prompting of audience member Matt from Melbourne, he gave an impromptu solo performance of “Murder in the City.” With a final encore of Andrew Lloyd Webber standard “Music of the Night,” Karimloo was gone, leaving a grateful crowd with a set of memories to cherish.

Ramin Karimloo and Anna O’Byrne played at Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne 8pm Wednesday 20 June 2018. Ramin Karimloo and Anna O’Byrne play at State Theatre, Sydney Saturday 23 June 2018.

Photos: Joan Marcus, Jeff Busby

4 replies »

  1. Excellent show but lowsy ending, no introductions to the band, no final bow or duet by O’byrne, just 2000 people left standing, begging for an encore, house lights turned up full, and 2000 people tossed out onto the street. Its that last 10 percent of the showmanship that spoiled the whole performance. Is it arrogance, or just me.

    • I tend to agree with Cain Hunter re the conclusion of Ramin’s Melbourne concert.
      The final bookend seemed to lack stage direction. I’d have thought one of the iconic musical theatre duets would have created that sense of closure. I was not a fan of the Bluegrass numbers and the up tempo versions of Oh What a Beautiful Morning and Anthem consolidated for me why the original arrangements are still adored. Ramin’s renowned songs were extraordinary to hear live. I felt Anna’s vocals have seemed more effective within the context of the full shows she has performed in. Is that a technical/sound issue ?

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