The promotional poster billed them as “Il Divo meets Michael Buble with a touch of West End Charm.” This was one case where advertising undersold the finished product, as these four superb vocal talents drew on their depth of performance experience to deliver a show that went somewhere beyond the barricade, giving the audience something quite supreme.
Review by Brett Considine
Performers (and Les Mis connections):
Kieran Brown (Palace Theatre; 25th Anniversary production O2)
Andy Coxon (Les Misérables Movie – Student 7, 2012-2013 Queen’s Theatre – Montparnasse/Cover Marius)
Scott Garnham (25th Anniversary production O2; Queen’s Theatre 2010 – Feuilly, understudy Enjolras and Marius)
Simon Schofield (Edinburgh Playhouse – Gavroche)
With appearances by:
Hadley Fraser (Palace Theatre 2002-03 Marius, 25th Anniversary production O2 – Grantaire; 2011-12 Queen’s Theatre Javert; Les Misérables Movie – National Guardsman)
Rob Houchen (Queen’s Theatre 17/6/2013-14/2/2016 – Marius)
When you bill yourself as being a performer from the barricade there is little need to elaborate on the detail of your CV. Having been on London’s West End for over 30 years, Les Misérables is an institutional force that has achieved recognition and acclaim well beyond the musical theatre setting. As much as the music and majesty of the great show have increased over time, so too has the number of its progeny. With company changes happening reasonably regularly there is always going to be some new barricade alumni looking to wipe off the greasepaint and embrace a new performing opportunity. And within this very idea you have the basis for the music phenomenon that is The Barricade Boys.
The brainchild of Scott Garnham and Simon Schofield, The Barricade Boys brings together Les Mis alumni and produces a revolution in live entertainment. Having first performed at the Charing Cross Theatre in 2015, the group has subsequently taken off, regularly providing entertainment on cruise ships, appearing on various well-known UK television shows, and recently performing on Broadway. Once you hear them you realise there is little wonder why. Collectively, they offered a stunning sound, witty interaction with each other and the audience, and provided an experience that gave the impression that they enjoyed doing the show just as much – if not more – than the audience enjoyed watching it…and that’s saying something!
While the show had its fair share of Les Mis standards, like I Dreamed A Dream, Stars, Bring Him Home, a wonderful arrangement of Master of the House, and One Day More, there was also an extensive repertoire that extended beyond Paris of 1832. Tonight’s performance included a Jersey Boys medley that left the audience thinking, “Oh what a Night!” Then came the Motown medley, the Beatles’ tracks, Volare, and a Blues Brothers medley that had the audience clapping along in style. Also amongst these highlights was a performance of Bohemian Rhapsody, allowing Coxon, Brown, Garnham, and Schofield to display some Mercury-like tones.
There were several points in the show where you thought the talent-level could not get any higher. At such junctures some more theatre alumni were introduced. Hadley Fraser shone in his performance of Stars, recapturing his run as Javert in 2011-12. A more recent alumni, Rob Houchen offered a powerful performance of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. While his term as Marius may have ended just short of 12 months to the day, Houchen showed that his command of the role is still very much alive, demonstrating passion, power, and emotion in his rendition of Marius’s sombre post-battle reflection. Louise Dearman, the only lady to play both Elphaba and Glinda in Wicked, also dropped by, performing the Beaches signature tune and tear-jerker number Wind Beneath My Wings.
From the outset there was the message that this was not a show in the sense that you would normally expect to see these men performing – they were not in character and the strict audience conventions of the musical theatre setting were relaxed. Rather, this was a live gig, with that allowing audience enthusiasm to come through in cheers, clapping along, and hand waves. The fourth wall was well and truly broken and any barricade between audience and performers came crashing down as the full space of the theatre was engaged during the show.
This was a fine example of live music performance at its best – four fine performers supported by a bold and brassy sounding seven piece band led by James Doughty. All those on stage looked like they were having fun…lots of it in fact. This was, perhaps, a recognition that tonight’s show was a triumph – in both performance achievements and in overcoming the adversity of the previous week. At the top of the show Garnham spoke of sprained ankles, throat infections, and tube strikes – all of which had potentially threatened tonight’s performance. Much like Marius in their common alma mater, these Barricade Boys survived the onslaught, displaying no apparent impediment to their vocal brilliance during their two hours of performance that included three different costumes. It was axiomatic that a standing ovation ensued, as the audience desperately hoped for one song more. They would get it. Quite fittingly, it was One Day More – a Les Mis signature piece – that had been beautifully arranged for the four men and afforded a wonderful finale.
The Barricade Boys offered a stellar evening of entertainment. With exquisite vocal talents and extensive experience in live performance, they simply shone under the lights of the Charing Cross theatre. For the audience it was hard not to smile widely in awe of the talent that was on display and tap along to the tunes. This is clearly a group to follow. It is also a strong reminder of the immense talent that is harnessed, nurtured, and developed within the theatrical setting. The arts represent a valuable social asset, with their worth and depth very much on display this evening. Whether for their stagey appeal, their links to many of the West End’s finest shows, or their downright awesome sound and entertainment value, the Barricade Boys should not be missed. Keep an eye out for future performances and book early. If tonight was anything to go by, there will be no empty chairs at their future shows.