After 19 years of touring UK and Europe, BEYOND THE BARRICADE got a standing ovation from some audience members at their State Theatre concert in Sydney as part of their current six weeks Australian tour.
The audience knew it was not going to be as spectacular as seeing the actual shows as the four singers (including a singer on keyboard) and three other musicians brought familiar tunes in concert mode. As Andy Reiss has explained “We don’t use backing tracks, so every musical note is played and sung live, giving a dynamic feel to the show.” There were times when the singers’ ‘performances’ could have been a bit more ‘dynamic’ too, particularly in the first half.
Three of the singers are former cast members of London’s longest-running musical, Les Misérables – Andy Reiss, who has played numerous male roles and served as its director in Manchester; David Fawcett, who played Valjean; and Poppy Tierney who played Cosette. Andy and David have extensive musical theatre experience. Newer on the scene is Australian actor Elise McCann, joining them for the Australian tour, and also in the Production Company’s production of Oklahoma. Andy Reiss doubles up on keyboard. Other talented musicians also on stage are Daniel on keyboard, Dave Williams on drums and Russ Kennedy on bass guitar.
The dramatic opening with helicopter lights to signal songs from Miss Saigon reflected the programming of songs from West End and Broadway musicals from the middle of last century through to the current Hamilton. They included The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Chess, Wicked, Miss Saigon, Mamma Mia, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King and Les Misérables. Lighting and music assisted transitions which were generally smooth.
David Fawcett’s patter gave a loose chronology. At times his patter reminded me of the fare of older RSL club entertainers. A couple of timely jokes about cricket and the Socceroos though appeared to endear him to the audience.
In the first half the balance between the backing band and the voices did not assist in fully appreciating the singing. A duet from Phantom of the Opera sung by Poppy Tierney and Elise McCann proved that the two can coalesce musically after only a few weeks together. Poppy’s strongest performance in the first half was ‘I don’t know how to love him’ from Jesus Christ Superstar. Towards the end, Andy made a brave statement that the audience “must agree that he’s singing better than ever” in reference to David Fawcett. I doubt and hope that David was not showing us him ‘at the top of his game’ in the first half.
The costume change at interval saw the two females maintain elegant long dresses, with David Fawcett upgrading his look from regular suit and shirt to entertainment suit with red waistcoat.
The second half had a soft start with songs from the Lion King. All singers seemed to give more dynamic performances in the second half, with Poppy Tierney and David Fawcett engaging more of their body in telling the story. A duet with strong vocals and physicality from David Fawcett and Andy Reiss commanded audience attention. Andy and Elise had shown more facial and physical engagement of the audience throughout the concert, but Poppy clearly rose to the occasion with her Chicago medley. As the newest member among the singers, Elise equipped herself well in engaging performances.
The concert ended more strongly than it had begun with songs from Les Miserables including I Dreamed a Dream, On my Own and Bring Him Home. David Fawcett showed his deepest display of emotion in Bring Him Home which was much stronger than the opening songs.
BEYOND THE BARRICADE resonated with the Sydney audience and the performers are to be congratulated on sustaining good performances during an extensive 6 week tour of over 25 nearly all one night only shows in cities and towns across four Australian states.