Les Musicals review: a totally unexpected delight

You’d think Jonathan Amsell and Rhydian Roberts would make a rather odd pairing for an evening of belting out musical classics. You’d be right: but it makes for a weird and wonderful evening of surprises and incredible talent.

The show starts with the pair of X-Factor runners-up swaggering on stage, cane in hand, singing Pure Imagination. It’s a beginning that throws you off, setting the precedent for brilliant unexpected moments throughout.

The duo belt their way through difficult numbers such as Ol’ Man River and Who Wants To Live Forever, but provide wonderful moments of light relief with more comical numbers (I Believe in Miracles springs to mind) that take the audience on an all-round musical rollercoaster.

As we leave for the interval, I’m surprised by how the show manages to avoids being self-indulgent. For two exceptionally confident, super talented individuals with shining egos, I’m surprised the duo let their guard down so much. The show doesn’t take itself so seriously, meaning when it’s time for the audience to sit up and listen to the show-stoppers, we do.

The second half somewhat proves me wrong as Amsell dedicates a good ten minutes of the show to discussing his family, even allowing his seven-year-old to jump up on stage and duet with him. Cute, if you like that kind of thing. A bit irritating if you don’t. I’ll let you figure out which category I fall into.

Some of numbers in the second half are perhaps a little too big for the boys. Gethsemane is an insanely difficult number, and without the emotional background that comes with watching an entire musical from start to finish, it doesn’t pull off. In fact, the same goes for a lot of the numbers. We’re not emotionally invested in the characters (because the lads aren’t trying to be characters), but the talented pair still bring acting prowess and emotion into the songs. Rhydian in particular brings out his character acting and his personal humour throughout – for me, he really brings sparkle to the show where otherwise it would just be Amsell singing big numbers to get his all-important mid-show standing ovations.

I would have preferred shorter snippets of songs – a verse and a chorus of popular musical hits would have allowed more favourites to come to the fore. Whole songs dragged in places and the true joy of showtune samples became apparent during the ’50 songs in three minutes’ segment. The lads gave us the best three minutes of our lives, belting out a beautifully created section of songs that included 50 of the best showtunes out there. Exceptional.

All in all, I could have listened to the duo sing all night, and I’ll definitely be booking my seats for next year’s show. Don’t miss your chance to see Les Musicals when it returns to City Varieties on 29th and 30th June 2019.

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