William Shakespeare famously wrote that, ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’. The men and women of the West End have proven time and again though that there is a world beyond the stage – the West End stage that is – and they have played on many of them. Many have branched out from musical theatre to seek new challenges in their career, and one way they seem to like to do that is to come together as a collective, creating ‘super-groups’ of vocal brilliance.
I adore going to see West End musicals and the experience of being transported to another world by the outstanding performances of the cast, but one reason I’ve always enjoyed going along to musical theatre cabarets and concerts, etc. is that they provide a chance to just sit back and take in the full power of the vocalists’ voices alone, without a fully-staged show distracting from that. They’re not pretending to be someone else and they’re not there to tell someone else’s story, they’re just standing up in front of an audience as themselves and sharing their love of music with everyone there. It’s a wonderful thing.
An excellent example of how successful this can be may be found in The Tenors of Rock, which boasts some of the best male rock voices (with a background in musical theatre) around. The band featured on The X Factor in 2013 and have become an international sensation with a fan base of millions. Then there is The 4Tunes, a 4-piece all-male acapella/singing group comprising numerous members who, collectively, have played most of the male lead roles in the West End. They perform regularly as on-board cruise liner entertainment, and since their West End début as a band at the Hippodrome Casino, huge demand has seen them return regularly to the London venue for further gigs.
Hot on their heels to find success of their own is the latest ‘super-group’ of West End singers, Boys of the Barricade. They perform as a 4/5 piece group, but as a collective, are formed of 20 leading men of the West End stage. They have their own unique twist which sets them out from other groups, in that every member has formally appeared in Les Miserables, either as part of the West End company, or in the international tour production, 25th Anniversary concert at the O2 Arena, or Hollywood film adaption. In addition to all having been in the iconic musical, they have played every major role in musical theatre between them and have extensive experience in cabaret and concert events. They’ve performed in countries all over the world and are a collection of some of the most superb male voices in the industry.
So who are the Boys of the Barricade? Members include: John Addison, Simon Bailey, Kieran Brown, James Charlton, Michael Colbourne, Andy Coxon, Shaun Dalton, Killian Donnelly, Fra Fee, Hadley Fraser, Scott Garnham, Rob Houchen, Bradley Jaden, Gavin James, Craig Mather, Jamie Muscato, Oliver Saville, Niall Sheehy, Simon Schofield and Liam Tamne.
They celebrate the world of musicals by performing classic songs from the stage, as you would expect from a group formed of musical theatre performers, but also in their repertoire are songs from some of the greatest artists in the music industry, covering powerful ballads, operatic arias and the genres of rock, pop and swing. Their rendition of the Les Miserables classic ‘ I Dreamed A Dream’, can be heard on their website and FB page, for those who are interested in a taster of what to expect from this group of performers. Based on a version by Teatro with new vocal arrangements, and sung by Kieran Brown, James Charlton, Scott Garnham and Simon Schofield, it’s a unique version of a well-known number and an insanely good display of vocal prowess.
Boys of the Barricade made their TV début on The Paul O’Grady Show on Wednesday 15th May, covering Top Gun‘s ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ with their own barbershop arrangement of the song. This summer is when it gets really exciting however, as they recently announced that they will be staging their first live concert in London’s West End. The launch gig will be held at the Charing Cross Theatre on Sunday 26th July, and is being produced by West End Productions, the professional theatre entertainment company which was established by members Simon Schofield and Scott Garnham. The latter is also providing direction for the event, which features vocal arrangements by Christopher Guard. Tickets are soon to go on sale.
I’ve seen many of the ‘Barricade Boys’ perform in West End shows, cabarets and concerts over the years (including Les Miserables), and am genuinely excited by some of the names in the group’s line-up. This really is a collection of some of the finest male voices in the West End. Do you hear the people sing? Oh yes, and boy can they sing! Already ‘Stars’ of the stage, Boys of the Barricade are set to be ‘Master of the House’ at the Charing Cross Theatre with their première concert, and it’s a sure bet there’ll be no ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables on that night.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25