Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
As selection criteria for picking members of a musical theatre four-piece go, having once been in Les Misérables is one of the least restrictive, thanks to the musical’s longevity, cast size, and various touring company and concert productions. However, it has given performer-producers Scott Garnham and Simon Schofield a strong brand with which to tour.
After a Christmas residency at London’s The Other Palace, Garnham and Schofield are now embarking on a whistle stop tour of the UK with two new singers, Samuel Edwards and Chris Cowley, in tow.
And true to their band name, the Barricade Boys include plenty of songs from Les Mis to appeal to the mainstream audience. From I Dreamed a Dream to Stars and Bring Him Home, it’s very much business as expected – four close harmonies, with the performers taking turns to take lead vocal.
What one doesn’t expect is for Master of the House to be included in such a repertoire. That it can is down to musical director James Doughty’s canny arrangement, which reimagines the comedy number as a jazz-swing standard. It’s a testament to Doughty’s skills, and the singers’ commitment to the concept, that the transformation is so effective.
Elsewhere, the repertoire has a firm footing in musical theatre, capitalising on the cast’s previous roles – Schofield performing Close Every Door with a troupe of children from a local performing arts school, Edwards reprising Dancing Though Life from his previous life as Fiyero in the touring production of Wicked. A highlight is Garnham’s rendition of Evermore, a new song composed by Alan Menken and Tim Rice for Disney’s recent live action remake of Beauty and the Beast.
Elsewhere, the group is happy to diverge from musical theatre standards – although with West End jukebox musicals appropriating back catalogues with abandon, even a Motown-inspired medley of numbers never steps too far away. A further collection of numbers from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons show the Barricade Boys’ devotion to Jersey Boys. Throughout the show, the four-piece’s maroon blazers (not quite red enough to incur the wrath of any copyright lawyers) and dance moves illustrate how much influence Valli’s back catalogue has had.
A disco sequence (topped and tailed with a rendition of the more up-to-date Uptown Funk) is perhaps the weakest section; not coincidentally, perhaps, it is the furthest away from the group’s musical theatre origins. And in a couple of numbers which require the group to start in close harmony with minimal musical background (especially a full rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody), tuning struggles in the first bars until the boys settle.
But throughout, the charm of Garnham (who often adopts the role of Emcee) and Schofield (likewise, the class clown) shines through. The personalities of new band members Edwards and Cowley struggle to come across in comparison, which leaves the impression that this is not quite a quartet of equals.
Barricade Boys’ show is unlikely to garner any accolades for originality. It is a solid, dependable evening of musical theatre-infused performance that has much to appeal. And if that is what Garnham and Schofield’s brand comes to represent, that is no bad thing.
Reviewed on 12 March 2018 and on tour | Image: Contributed