We all love going to see a West End musical and enjoying the displays of vocal talent from its cast. The industry is filled with some truly talented performers, and for many of theatre enthusiasts, the odd visit to a show here and there to see them is just not enough. There are opportunities out there in which fans can see them perform away from the West End stage though, if you know where to look.
Of course, there is usually always some kind of musical theatre cabaret or concert event going on somewhere. I’ve been to many over the years and always enjoyed the experience; in fact, sometimes the simplicity and intimacy of these live performances can provide more enjoyment than that which a big-budget West End production offers. Whether it is a solo gig, or a cabaret featuring the cast of show, or a concert in which the crème de le crème of the West End are starring, it’s a chance to see those individuals who have been blessed with the gift of song in a setting which is all about the voices and the music, with nothing to detract from that. What could be better than that?
These types of events are one-time only occurrences though. The audience can walk away with memories to treasure for a lifetime, but that’s where the performances remain, locked in memories. Once the performers have stopped singing and the event is over, that’s all you have left of it. That’s why album releases of musical theatre performers are so popular. Most theatregoers have a favourite performer, or even a few, and a recorded album is the perfect way to be serenaded by them whenever you so desire. Some release a cover album of either exclusively musical theatre tracks or a mixture of musical genres, while some take the opportunity to showcase their own material. It’s up to the individual as to what they want to hear, but the point is that fans can relax at home or head out and about accompanied by the voices of John Owen-Jones, Rachel Tucker, Ramin Karimloo, Louise Dearman, or whoever it is that you like.
Going back to live performances for a moment though, there is another which I haven’t mentioned yet. Sometimes those talented men and ladies of the stage come together to form a band – a super group of singers if you will – and one which is usually superior to most other out there as there are no weak vocal links in their ranks. A band made up of West End performers means that each member has great vocal capability, backed up years of training and plenty of experience of performing in front of live crowds that can number in the thousands.
I got to thinking about these bands founded on musical theatre when a poster for one such band’s upcoming gig popped up on my Facebook feed. The 4Tunes are a newly-formed group, and although they have all already performed leading roles in the West End, they are now re-making their début there as collective singers. They’ve already gained hundreds of followers and made fans all over the world through their numerous performances aboard such cruise liners as the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Victoria and the Arcadia, and now they are playing their first London show at The Hippodrome Casino this Thursday (31st July 2014).
The 4Tunes are an all-male acapella/singing group which cover everything from ‘rousing operatic arias’ to ‘powerful and beautiful ballads, performing stunning renditions of popular songs from such music icons as Queen, Stevie Wonder, George Michael and The Four Seasons, as well as classic musical theatre numbers from some of the best-loved shows around. Delivering ‘amazing harmonies, fabulous vocals and a personality rarely seen on stage’ in their performances, it’s little wonder that the group has been on the receiving end of so much praise as all the members are award-winning singers who have played the majority of leading male roles in the West End between them. Those stage stars who have performed in the group include Will Barratt (The Phantom of the Opera), Matthew Gent (Sweeney Todd), Owain Williams (Les Miserables), Michael Conway (Jersey Boys), Dominic Ridley (The Sound of Music), Michael Pickering (Jesus Christ Superstar – Arena Tour) and James Gibbs (We Will Rock You). Having heard them sing, as a group and some of them as individuals, I can say unequivocally that they have voices to die for – which you may just do from sheer musical pleasure when you hear them.
Tenors of Rock are another group with a musical theatre background, with all members having previous performed in the West End in such shows as Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Billy Elliot, Wicked and We Will Rock You. Founded by Gareth Richardson, the group currently features his brother Dai Richardson, Jonathan Williams, Gareth Chart and Jaymze Denning alongside him, delivering classic rock tunes using their ‘unique and innovative sound to put their own twist on songs you know and love’. Having all members as the front man, instead of just one, Tenors of Rock really stand out from the crowd and built on the success they were already enjoying by auditioning for The X Factor last year, making it to the final 7 groups and narrowly missing out on getting through to the live shows. They’ve played some of the biggest music festivals, performed in Las Vegas and staged several UK and international tours, rocking audiences from all around the world.
One group which represents the female side of that coin is Rock Chicks, a new all-girl group who came together performing with Tenors of Rock. Sabrina Aloueche, Lauren Samuels, Jodie Jacobs and Tori Allen-Martin are the four ‘sassy ladies’ comprising the group, which mixes up their favourite rock anthems and medleys as well as offering a selection of musical theatre classics. They’ve starred in such West End shows as Les Miserables, Grease, Rock of Ages and Hair, and with the exception of Allen-Martin, all have previously played the role of Scaramouche in the Queen musical We Will Rock You. Rock Chicks made their début at Lauderdale House as part of the venue’s Cabaret in the House series earlier this year.
There are many other musical theatre performers out there who have joined forces to create vocal groups, covering a wide range of musical genres. If you go to see a West End musical, chances are that you like to hear a collection of people singing well, so groups like The 4Tunes, Tenors of Rock and Rock Chicks are always worth looking out for.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25)
Tuesday 29th July 2014