The West End is a truly wonderful place filled with creativity, passion, and most of all, talent. There are countless performers on the stages of our West End theatres that are so talented at what they do that it beggars belief. These gifted individuals are bringing worlds of imagination to life every night, and through their performances, earning the love of the theatre-goers. Some rise higher than others to become the leading men and ladies of the West End, attracting high numbers of fans along the way. The likes of John Owen-Jones, Louise Dearman, Lee Mead, Kerry Ellis, to name a few, all have a huge fan base and would certainly be included amongst the top stars of the West End stage, as would another name: Ramin Karimloo.
The Iranian-born Canadian actor shot to fame in the West End through his role as The Phantom, first in The Phantom of the Opera and then originating the subsequent version of the iconic character in the sequel, Love Never Dies. His interpretation of the classic role turned him into a beloved figure in the musical theatre industry and he is often cited as one of the greatest Phantoms by fans. Regarded by many as the leading man, he has since gone on to earn similar acclaim for his performance as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, first in the West End production and then in Toronto. He is now currently in the US preparing to open the brand-new production on Broadway in March.
One of the most hard-working and in-demand performers around, he keeps himself just as busy off-stage. A regular guest artist at various concert/cabaret events, he is also known to stage solo live performances and has hosted shows all over the UK, as well as recently thrilling his American fans with an international concert tour in 2013. In addition, he released his debut solo album in 2012. The self-titled album featured a mix of material, including covers of both musical theatre and contemporary songs along with a number of original tracks. He has a compelling quality to his voice that keeps you hooked no matter what he’s singing, but this, combined with the quality of the featured songs, led to something uniquely special. Ramin was highly successful, and now, the singer/actor is looking to repeat that success with his next music release.
He is set to release ‘the ultimate Country/Broadgrass EP’, The Road To Find Out – East, on 7th April 2014 after announcing its availability for pre-order this week. The brand new EP, which is to be released by Big Hand Recordings, is the first in a series of four with the further EP’s, titled North, South and West, to follow at set intervals throughout the coming year.
For those who are unaware, Broadgrass is a new musical genre which Ramin has evolved as a cross between Broadway and Bluegrass. He toured with his Broadgrass band last year in the Broadway to Bluegrass concert series, performing a variety of Broadway classics and Bluegrass tunes, along with showcasing a selection of original songs. This new EP follows the same route, featuring four tracks which include two musical theatre numbers and two original songs.
Ramin performs ‘Oh What A Beautiful Morning’ from Oklahoma! and ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ from Les Miserables, but both have been reworked to splendid effect with new arrangements to produce a more ‘country’ sound. Fans can expect a similar treat with his new material. ‘Losing’ is a beautiful, emotive ballad while the more upbeat and catchy ‘Broken’ will have listeners tapping their feet along with it. He co-wrote both songs with fellow West End stage star Hadley Fraser, the two having been close friends since performing together in Les Miserables over ten years ago. ‘Losing’ and ‘Broken’ were written during their Sheytoons days, when they created the folk/rock band and performed together in a number of live gigs. Having been present for some of these, I’m already familiar with these songs and they remain two of my Sheytoons favourites (You can see them performed, along with several other songs, on the band’s YouTube channel OfficalSheytoons). It’s a shame the band never progressed to recording a studio album as Ramin and Hadley’s voice together create something truly special, but it’s wonderful to see these songs receive a fresh breath of life through this upcoming EP.
Ramin favours the storytelling-style of music, saying that: “‘As a music lover and a writer, I love songs that tell stories. Musical diaries. Bluegrass, folk and country speak to my heart. We kissed some Bluegrass into our Broadway selections and breathed some theatre into my bluegrass/folks songs.” It’s a strong combination which, although don’t have obvious ties to one another, proves to work to great effect. The Road To Find Out – East is likely to be another triumph for this formidable talent. Whichever direction he takes, he just can’t seem to put a step wrong in the eyes of the fans and the industry alike, and it would appear that all roads East, North, South and West will only lead him on to further success.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 13th February 2014