John Barrowman and Seth Rudetsky at Leicester Square Theatre
What do you get if you combine a radio host pianist with one of the UK’s most beloved stage and screen stars? It’s neither a cabaret nor an interview, but a distinctively special evening with John Barrowman. Host and musical theatre fanatic Seth Rudetsky created Broadway at Leicester Square Theatre in 2013, and his special guest series typically focuses on shows and showbiz secrets alongside his piano prowess. However, this was no ordinary guest; Barrowman’s star appeal extends from his first West End break in Anything Goes in 1989 to his Doctor Who cult following.
Walking through the audience to the spine-tingling tune of As If We Never Said Goodbye, the Scottish-American singer swiftly declared it too depressing, before launching into an upbeat rendition of Anything Goes – complete with tap break. His casual T-shirt dress code reflected the laid-back style of the evening, which was loosely structured as a sandwich of “chitter chatter” and famous stage hits. It’s not strictly rehearsed, allowing for a variety of setlists but also opening up margin for lyrical error – “I’m s***ing myself a bit”, Barrowman admitted on the subject of remembering his words.
The much-loved performer’s smooth voice filled the theatre, soaring high and crooning low so effortlessly it could easily be taken for granted. However, half the entertainment came as he was quizzed on both his career and background. The free-flowing conversation was aided by Rudetsky’s quickfire quips and their natural rapport – not to mention Barrowman’s endless wealth of entertaining experience and his captivating digressions. From comparing musical legends Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber, to revealing his childhood “big solo” (Fame’s I Sing the Body Electric) and chatting Doctor Who – which led to a spin on a Wicked classic, The Doctor and I.
The second day of performances are sure to be different; who knows how many stories there are left to tell. However, as songs and tales interlinked, the more personal ones packed a greater emotional punch. The entertainer opened up about hiding his sexuality (Nine’s Unusual Way), health scares and his Scottish heritage (Loch Lomond). One of the most memorable moments was a reunion with former Sunset Boulevard co-star and audience member Anita Louise Combe, who joined Barrowman for a spontaneous duet after he recalled a theatre prank. Without feeling overly produced, this was a candid evening of raw talent, laughter and unbarred silliness.
Barrowman is a true showman. His fans will count themselves lucky to have experienced the razzle-dazzle in a low-key, intimate setting, and the star himself seemed to be enjoying every number. By the end of the night, he couldn’t stop spinning and grinning, and I imagine that’s how the audience felt too.
Photo: Kent Horner
For further information and future events visit John Barrowman’s website here.