BWW Reviews: 4 STARS Concert With Lea, Sierra, Ramin, And Yu

Four Stars Out Of Five

By Jude Buot

Buot is a guest reviewer, who is based in Japan.

Tokyo, June 17, 2013--Putting together on one stage Lea Salonga, Ramin Karimloo, and Sierra Boggess sounds such a completely stellar idea; but, when examined closely, it is quite tricky. Given the varied theater credits under their names, one would have to carefully consider what type of show--in a concert form--would showcase their vocal abilities in a way that they need not upstage one another. To make things more interesting, or complicated, what if you would include Japan's very own TV and theater star Yu Shirota in the already mixed bag of performers? How will he fit in?

Last Saturday, the opening night of their concert series in Japan titled "4 Stars: One World of Broadway Musicals," the result was a musical taste test. Featuring a wide selection of tunes from around 20 Broadway musicals, the show's biggest chunks were homage to composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. As if these were not as varied a repertoire the creative team members could get, they also managed to sneak in some songs from Stephen Schwartz and Jason Robert Brown, and even from the Disney animated movies associated with Salonga ("Mulan" and "Aladdin") and Boggess ("The Little Mermaid").

My only problem with this format is that it had too many "musical jumps," hence leaving me somewhat unsatisfied whenever they nail a certain song from one musical and that you would wish they would do the entire songbook; but then suddenly, the score changes and now they are doing another number from a different show. How challenging, and in my case frustrating--for an audience member to snap out of a feeling just when you are so holding on to it. Even at the tributes they gave to shows like "The Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables," and "Miss Saigon," I had to stop myself from feeling dismayed every time I would figure out an idea I hoped they had done in order to satisfy my guilty pleasure even more. For example, because Shirota obviously has not starred in any of these productions, he stood in as Raoul in the "Phantom" medley, which was spot-on. However, I think it should not have stopped right there. In "Les Miserables," he could have been Marius when Salonga was Eponine. Talking about Salonga, although she was given a well-deserved moment as Kim in the "Miss Saigon" number, she was completely absent in the "Phantom" number. I know that she is no "Christine" as compared to Boggess, but it would have been an excellent opportunity for Salonga and Shirota to duet "All I Ask of You." Boggess, who did not sing in the "Miss Saigon" numbers, could have also been used as "Ellen"--that way she and Salonga could share the lovely duet "I Still Believe."

Karimloo was obviously the luckiest person that night, having played all the meaty roles in all the tribute numbers--he was the Phantom in "Phantom," Chris in "Miss Saigon," and Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables." Among these roles, I liked him the most as the Phantom. He need not even had to put on a mask nor the stage to be transformed into a mystic river donned with candles and dry ice. He was just perfect for the role.

Speaking of individual highlights, unlike Karimloo, the other stars shone the brightest not during their musical theater numbers but during their "momentum breakers" (non-musical theater numbers) in Act 2. Boggess, who is a trained classical singer, not only wowed the audience with her ease in those high notes via the song "Quando Me'n Vo" from "La Boheme," but also showcased that she has a bright and funny personality. On the other hand, Shirota, who is half-Spanish, did a cover of Il Divo's "Isabel." In his rendition, he evolved from being a singing heartthrob to a passionate balladeer. Finally, Salonga, who is my kababayan, could not have rightfully chosen the perfect OPM (Original Pilipino Music) song - George Canseco's classic ballad "Ikaw." This was probably my most favorite moment in the entire show, due largely of course for personal reasons. I was immensely proud watching her-- mesmerized by both the singer and the song.

And so the four of them were indeed stars that night, but the show could have easily earned a fifth one if only the repertoire was made more coherent instead of trying to cover too varied a catalog. Looking on the bright side of things, I would not be surprised if the four of them would be asked to do a rerun of this show or another completely different project--perhaps putting together this time a musical revue. Yes, I am trying to suggest something. You did not think my first two words in this review were unintentional, right?

"4 Stars," featuring Jason Robert Brown's orchestrations and arrangements, Fred Lassen's musical direction, and Daniel Kutner's direction, kicked off at Aoyama Theatre Saturday, June 15, and will run until Sunday, June 23. It will transfer to Umeda Arts Theater in Osaka from Thursday, June 27 to Sunday, June 30.

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Photos by Jude Buot

Buot is a guest reviewer, who is based in Japan.

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