It’s rare to see the Manoel Theatre so packed to bursting point, but before they even stepped on stage Beyond the Barricade seemed to be doing something right as there wasn’t an empty spot in sight. The singing quartet from the UK have been doing the rounds for 10 solid years, giving audiences the chance to witness live the wonderful melodies and lyrics of the West End and Broadway’s favourite musicals. Their past local jaunts have clearly secured them a strong local fan base.
Tribute bands (whether they’re covering Queen, Abba or the musicals) are often the resting places for rejects who didn’t quite cut it in the real world, but Beyond the Barricade have crafted a niche that seems to mix genuine singing talent with the right musical choices to come up trumps. The fact that this is their 10th anniversary tour speaks volumes in itself.
The format is blissfully simple – four capable singers take to the stage for a gimmick-less performance of show-tune favourites. Their four voices have to be as flexible as they come, as each song requires different styles and ranges (ranges that would often be hit by the 20 or so members of the average musical ensemble). The current team is made up of two girls (Katie Leeming and Becci Morrell) and two guys (Andy Reiss – who is the also the musical director and keyboardist for the show, and David Fawcett), all of whom enjoy professional backgrounds as singers in UK theatres and London’s West End.
The show was originally thought up by Reiss and Fawcett, who met during a Manchester production of Les Misérables (which, incidentally, is the longest running musical on the West End and is still going strong). The troupe have consistently remained faithful to Les Mis ever since, holding a particular spot for it in their hearts and their repertoire.
Speaking of their repertoire, the one they have chosen for the 10th anniversary production is fun and varied; an engaging mix of toe-tapping showstoppers and heart-touching ballads. The first act begins with tunes from Miss Saigon, and moves into The Phantom of the Opera (which seems to be the more popular and well known of the two with local audiences). In between each set of songs, Fawcett takes to the mic to give an impromptu speech about the musical in question, often mixed in with local anecdotes and references.
The show continues in much the same way – a musical blend of relative unknowns and best-loved tunes. Particular show highlights include a medley of the fluffier shows – Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Cinderella – and The Song That Goes like This, from Spamalot (which ended on the West End a few weeks ago). Both sets completely stole the show. On the other hand, my least favourite renditions of the night were Radio Gaga from the hit rock musical We Will Rock You, and Tell Me It’s Not True from Blood Brothers.
The staging is also simple – just the four singers (with Reiss on the keyboard too) and four band members at the back who create melodies normally only mastered by huge orchestras. Projections behind them, often of images relating to the individual songs or musicals in performance, were one of the show’s weaker aspects, adding little to its overall feel.
Of course, the team’s tour de force and finale – tunes from Les Misérables – brought the house down. Throughout it was often hard to believe that everything performed was live – both vocally and musically – and all in attendance were certainly appreciative of the evident efforts made. Kudos to them.

Source: Weekender, February 21, 2009

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