All I had to know about Beyond the Barricade before being completely sold was the phrase ‘show tunes’. My claims of heterosexuality are wearing thin, what  with my affinity for fine wine and all things ‘Wham!’, so when my friends found out I was going to see the cast of Les Mis (that’s what they call it in the biz) do showstopping numbers from the West End and Broadway… well it only made things worse.

So, head hung low, I entered the Grand Theatre, went straight to the bar, was asked for I.D. I didn’t have, and thought the night was only bound to get worse. That’s when the show started. Synth keyboard dominated the majestic overtones of the venue, and whilst at first I thought it cheesy, by the end I had started  to wonder if it was cheesy enough.20121212-204112.jpg

A game of Guess the Musical opened up between my plus one and me, and I guessed right with Phantom of the Opera. I was ashamedly chuffed that the Phantom of the Opera – indeed – was here. The first thing I noted was the sheer power of David Fawcett’s vocals and, with a stage presence that spilled out onto the streets, the undivided attention he had immediately earned from the audience (each of whom had at least fifty years on us).

Phantom of the Opera became Jesus Christ Superstar, and the quartet really showed how their 13 years together had created an infallible harmony. I always thought the nativity story had missed a trick – it definitely needed a bigger dosage of funk. Well Mr Fawcett, whose smooth vocals seemed the very definition of funk, thumps enough boogie into JCS to make The Bee Gees blush.

Andy Reiss combined his talents throughout, bringing together vocals and keyboard in masterful style. The cheeky band (consisting of a drummer, a synthesist [no that’s not a word] and a bassist), whilst shrouded in darkness, provided their own entertainment with the odd sly grin towards David, Andy and the wonderfully harmonised Beth Humphries and Rebecca Vere.

David Fawcett’s pre and post-interval jokes were enough of a reason to be in the audience. They were of a much higher caliber than one would expect from a professional singer, and I certainly surprised myself with how much I was laughing by the end of his inter-musical talks.

I hadn’t been to The Grand for a number of years, and I was rather impressed with how the venue  manages to be both intimate and sizeable at the same time. Such a format was of course perfect for   Beyond the Barricade. Its cast built a rapport with the audience which proved the talking point of the  interval.

The Christmas section of the show was as apt as it was spectacular. I’ve never been a fan of the slower christmas tunes and, disappointed as I was to realise that I was in for that very thing, I found myself rather touched by the sentiments of Jesus Christ and  Santa Clause even though I don’t even believe in them.

If you get a chance to see the show, either this year or on its tour next year, I thoroughly recommend you seize it. Where else can you get the eyebrow-raising quality of a bonafide West End cast without taking out a mortgage for the tickets? This year’s pantomime is going to have to be pretty damned fun to supersede what has proved to be quite a tough act to follow.

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