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BWW Review: Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser - FROM THE REHEARSAL ROOM: TOKYO (ACT 1) at Setagaya Sound Studio

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Streaming for a limited time only, From the Rehearsal Room celebrates the music and musicals that have shaped and inspired the careers of Karimloo and Fraser.

BWW Review: Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser - FROM THE REHEARSAL ROOM: TOKYO (ACT 1) at Setagaya Sound Studio With the Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary production being the show that ignited my passion for musical theatre, Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser are two actors that I like and admire a lot. Over the years, I've had the privilege of seeing them perform many a time, both in their respective theatre productions or in concerts, so it was brilliant to hear that the two were reuniting, and recording this concert for global streaming.

The pair were originally set to take part in a reunion concert with Sierra Boggess in Japan, the leading trio from Phantom 25th Anniversary, but sadly, due to covid-19 restrictions, the show had to be postponed, giving opportunity for Ramin and Hadley to stage this concert from the Setagaya Sound Studio. It's unfortunate that no live performance was able to occur, but the silver lining to this was that it allowed for a global audience to see this production via digital streaming, which under normal circumstances, many fans would not have been able to make the trip to Japan and see them in concert.

Produced by Mercy Productions and The Yomiuri Shimbun, the concert is available through Mandolin, a digital entertainment streaming platform. Splitting the concert across 2 dates, May 21st and May 28th, the show offers a celebration of the music and musicals that have played a part in the duo's careers or have provided inspiration for them as artists.

Opening the set with the upbeat number "Old Friends" from Merrily We Roll Along, it was a lovely nod to the friendship Ramin and Hadley share; a fitting song for the duo - old friends that you get on incredibly well with, friends that understand you and whom you trust and can count on. BWW Review: Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser - FROM THE REHEARSAL ROOM: TOKYO (ACT 1) at Setagaya Sound Studio Next, the pair explored songs and roles that the two never got the chance to perform. For Hadley, it was "Maria" from West Side Story, and my goodness was it utterly sublime to hear him sing this. Hadley has one of the most incredible voices in the industry, with an impressive range, and his rendition of Maria was nothing short of perfect. How he has never played the role of Tony in West Side Story, or performed this before is beyond me. As for Ramin, it was revealed that he had auditioned for the movie Beauty and the Beast which he unfortunately did not get. Singing "If I Can't Love Her", from the stage musical, Ramin's performance is incredibly powerful and moving, really highlighting the Beast's human, sensitive and caring side. Ramin never fails to deliver the emotions, and what a shame it is that we never got to see Ramin as the Beast.

With the concert being set in a recording studio, without the presence of an orchestra, the songs selected had to translate well to only guitars or a piano (played by Ryohei Mori). As mentioned by Ramin, City of Angels - Hadley's last theatre run before the industry was shut down by the pandemic - is one that many people would have loved to see Hadley perform in. I was very fortunate enough to have seen Hadley in the Donmar production multiple times back in 2014, and it is right that without the orchestra, songs such as "Double Talk" or "You're Nothing Without Me" simply wouldn't work. BWW Review: Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser - FROM THE REHEARSAL ROOM: TOKYO (ACT 1) at Setagaya Sound Studio Fortunately, "Funny" was one that could be done with just a piano, and here, Fraser knocks it out of the park with his impressive vocals. Discussing how to spot if songs still had life, before it was sung too much and had to retire from the repertoire, Hadley picks up on "Still" from Anastasia - a song that Ramin had sung as the antagonist during his 9 month run at the Broadhurst Theatre. Not being too familiar with the musical, it was my first time hearing that song, but like always with these emotion-filled numbers, Ramin performs it with such ease and delivers the story convincingly.

The pair then go on to revisit a couple of classics - "Edelweiss" (from The Sound of Music) being the musical theatre number, and "Losing", their Sheytoon classic. One of the first songs written by the duo in their early band days, writing from Ramin's dressing room at the Adelphi Theatre.BWW Review: Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser - FROM THE REHEARSAL ROOM: TOKYO (ACT 1) at Setagaya Sound Studio Fans have waited years for a professionally recorded version of "Losing", and that wish was finally fulfilled by Ramin in his 2014 EP "The Road to Find Out: East" - a beautiful rendition by Ramin and Katie Birtill. However, nothing beats hearing the song performed by the original writers. Paired with a new guitar arrangement, the song sounds better than ever, and how lucky are we to be able to experience this performance.

BWW Review: Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser - FROM THE REHEARSAL ROOM: TOKYO (ACT 1) at Setagaya Sound Studio The concert wouldn't be a usual Ramin and Hadley performance without a little bit of Les Misérables - the show that introduced the two and continued to play a big part in their respective careers. Hadley's rendition of "Stars" never fails to give me the chills and it will forever be a firm favourite of mine, so being able to hearing him sing this again was truly wonderful. As for Ramin, it comes as no surprise that his choice of song here was "Bring Him Home" - one that he has sung on many occasions at concerts, but will forever be a fan favourite.

Closing the set, the pair treated us to "Anthem" from the Tim Rice musical, Chess - one of my favourite musical theatre numbers. With the two performing in 5700 miles away from the UK, it was interesting to see them explore what nationhood and home meant to them. Like Ramin, being brought up in a country different from that of my parent's heritage, and later moving to a different country for work, it is a song that I resonate a lot with - the song of every immigrant who left their native land to journey to a new one. Undoubtedly, for me, this was the highlight of the set: it was powerful and incredibly moving, sending chills up my spine whilst making me a little teary-eyed.

With international tours and concert productions still suspended in Hong Kong under the covid travel restrictions, Ramin and Hadley's provided much need relief for theatre fans, and in a way, it was like therapy - a cathartic experience, bringing so much joy to the soul. The concert once again reminded us the magic of live performance and how important it is to us all.


Act 2 of From the Rehearsal Room: Tokyo will be released on Friday 28 May 2021 20:00 ET (Saturday 29 May 2021 08:00 Hong Kong Time). Tickets are available to purchase now via Mandolin, with performances available for unlimited on-demand replay 72 hours after performance release.


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