‘They Nearly Blew the Roof off Central Hall!’

Kaitlyn Beattie-Zarb reviews West End power group Beyond the Barricade's impeccable show for SCENE. 3 stars.

(Image: Beyond the Barricade)

Last week Central Hall was transformed into a world of musicals, as Beyond the Barricade’s 25th Anniversary tour filled its walls with power vocals of the West End’s brightest vocalists.

Created in 1999, the production stars David Fawcett, Sarah Ryan, Andy Reiss, and Katie Leeming, all of which started their careers with roles in touring and West Productions of Les Miserables. The group then went on to break beyond the barricades of the French revolutionary musical and out into all the wacky and wonderful world of music theatre. 

All theatre legends in their own right, this cast of powerful vocalists brought their A-game to York, threatening to blow the roof off Central Hall with their bone-rattling, heart-filling vocals. This is a group that has performed these iconic musical numbers in sync for a quarter of a century, and it shows. Their timing and chemistry is impeccable, and their harmonies remain gorgeously blended – immediate chills graced the audience throughout the show.

While I simply do not have time to list every song the legendary troop performed, let’s just say they left no musical stone unturned. From classics like Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera, to modern hits like Come from Away and Dear Evan Hansen, this group knows their musicals and their audience. 

We were particularly impressed by their Hamilton renditions, especially Andy Reiss’s brilliantly unique take on King George’s  ‘You’ll Be Back’, and the group’s delightful performance of ‘Hakuna Matata’ from The Lion King. A favourite of the group and the audience was what’s called their ‘Silly Medley’ – a mix of bubbly songs from Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Cinderella that had the whole room bouncing and humming along. 

Whilst it was particularly enjoyable to watch the group’s character performing and the little costume changes that brought them to life, it was the soaring vocal acrobatics that remained most memorable. All four cast members pulled off some stunning vocal exercises, and I, for one, was grateful to be reminded of the sheer beauty that a solo ballad can provide when sung well. Both Sarah Ryan and Katie Leeming performed gorgeous renditions of some of theatre’s most notable female songs, singing the aria from Phantom of The Opera and the iconic ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ from Evita, respectively.

Most dazzling was Leeming’s rendition of ‘On My Own’ from Les Miserables, which my companion gasped “it’s like her soul left her body”. A belt truly powerful enough to lift the roof of the venue and audience members out of their seats. 

Rounding out the Les Miserables finale that the show is named for were equally stunning solo performances of ‘A Heart Full of Love’ (performed by Sarah Ryan), ‘Bring Him Home’ (performed by David Fawcett), and ‘Stars’ (performed by Andy Reiss). 

Finishing the evening with ‘One Day More’ – as they have done for every one of their 25 years worth of shows – the cast admits it is no easy task to pull off the musical’s mammoth Act One finale. With over 30 cast members performing the number in Les Miserables, this cohesive troop fully brings the number to life with just four people, their powerful voices and knowing harmonies creating a most atmospheric of sounds. 

This vocal prowess is what the group does best — bring stunning musical theatre, and in particular, a musical about a French Republic, to venues across the country with seeming ease, and striking musicality, so that everyone may have a chance to witness West End calibre talent and the magic of musicals.

While some of the staging and PowerPoint usage leaves something to be desired, this production provides an array of delightful and engaging numbers, obvious and longstanding chemistry, powerhouse vocals and the occasional  joke, keeping the room engaged throughout the night.

Entertaining on all cylinders, this is a production that knows what it is, how to sing musical theatre well and how to put on a show. 

Beyond the Barricade is touring the United Kingdom until September, with a 25th Anniversary Gala concert at the Birmingham Symphony Hall on 31st October. Tickets are available to purchase at https://www.beyondthebarricade.com