Reviewer: James Garrington
Depending on your interests, you might know John Barrowman from his work on How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria and subsequent TV casting shows; as Captain Jack in Torchwood; his TV presenting work; his radio show; or his many stage appearances in musicals or panto. In fact, such is Barrowman’s talent and popularity that there seems to be nothing that this man cannot do.
Backed by a seven piece band and four dancers, Barrowman presents a mixture of music and stories during the evening. From the start, as he bounds onto the stage, the level of energy is apparent, and he hardly seems to stand still for the duration of the two-and-a-half hour set he performs. Behind him is a screen, and he uses this to illustrate his anecdotes with photographs, and video clips – some touching, others hysterically funny. He is inspired, he tells us, by his family, his friends and his fans – and we are treated to a surprise appearance which adds to the fun.
Musically, the evening comprises a blend of popular music spanning a number of years, and one or two show tunes. From the opening Wrapped Up, through Quando, Quando Quando to his finale You Raise Me Up he delivers a superb mixture of styles, including a powerful This is the Moment to end the first set, and a small Cole Porter section which is delivered with a nice touch of swing among more pop including Listen to the Music and Everlasting Love
Although brought up in the United States, Barrowman was born in Scotland and tells us how proud he is of his heritage – at one point he even produces his MBE for the audience to see, and his Scottish heritage helps to provide one of the most memorable moments in an evening full of high points, as he sings Loch Lomond. The opening phrases are delivered unaccompanied, and the beautiful Symphony Hall acoustics really come into their own once again. Spine-tingling stuff, complete with a blinged-up kilt for good measure.
Barrowman was preceded on stage at Symphony Hall by a short support set from singer-songwriter Rachael Sage. Sage presents her own brand of original music infused with a touch of Irish folk, and provides a pleasant introduction to the main event of the evening.
Barrowman’s passion for life is evident and infectious. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, and loves to laugh – and laughs come aplenty during his show. It is clear that he is deadly serious about some things, though – equality, and his charity work – and the contrast in style when he is talking about them makes his point more telling. Above all, he is a showman, and entertainer with a capital E. He seems born to be on stage; cut him in half and you’ll probably find “Showbiz” running through him. He finishes the evening with an encore of I am What I Am, and nothing could be more fitting. He is what he is, and his audience love it.
They should check the roof of Symphony Hall – it’s just possible that John Barrowman blew it off.
Reviewed on 6th June 2015 and on tour