The Barricade Boys probably shouldn’t call this show ‘Christmas Cabaret’. The audience does not eat at tables (well, there are some very small tables dotted about, but with only room for drinks), and other definitions of ‘cabaret’ don’t fit the bill either: smartly dressed, the four ‘boys’ – Simon Schofield, Dougie Carter, Lee Honey-Jones and George Tebbutt, indulge in neither burlesque nor striptease (fortunately or unfortunately), providing the audience instead with round after round of good harmonies and engaging stage presences from beginning to end.
Then again, ‘Christmas Concert’ suggests a mere stand-and-deliver approach. With no programmes available to patrons and no mention from the stage as to who came up with the choreography for the show, I have no idea who should take the praise for it. But with limited performance space, the boys move comfortably around in a slickly delivered set, brimming with confidence and making it look easy – the best kind of live performance. As ever, the criteria for being a Barricade Boy is that an actor must have performed in a production of Les Misérables. On the night I went along, their special guest was Samantha Barks, who perhaps ironically probably had the most Les Mis exposure of them all, having done the concert version, the Shaftesbury Avenue musical version and the motion picture.
I’m sorry to say it, but she was woefully underused, singing just the one (albeit beautiful) number before joining the lads in a modified version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’, and then not to be seen at all in the second half. Ah well. Now, Les Mis and festive tunes seems an odd and potentially jarring mix, but the styles of music deployed here is even wider than that, encompassing chart music, rock ‘n’ roll (I was impressed by their rendition of ‘Johnny B Goode’) as well as musical numbers from other shows – the most memorable for me being a medley from West Side Story. Then there was the tune that was both a chart-topper and a (jukebox) musical theatre number, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which closes out We Will Rock You.
That wasn’t the only tune that brought the house down. The boys’ musical director, Noam Galperin, sat at the piano, glided through the wide range of songs with incredible precision. Their ‘banter’ (in inverted commas because, frankly, it was mostly rehearsed) was sufficiently augmented by ad-libs – and was considerably less cringey than it was the first time I encountered the boys, at their public launch concert at Charing Cross Theatre, when they were cumbersomely called ‘Boys Of The Barricade’.
It is certainly a change from the staple seasonal diet of pantomimes and shows with overly sentimental narratives. The boys are able to deliver both individually and collectively – their harmonies are a pleasure to listen to, and it was difficult not to feel very much involved in proceedings. A five-star festive treat.
At The Other Palace until 28 December 2019.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.