Let me just begin by saying this: I love Ramin Karimloo. Nobody these days rocks a belty, sustained high note like he does, or burns up the stage with so much confidence. He gave Jean Valjean — musical theater’s hoary granddad — some real passion and humanity, and kept the Phantom on the distinctly fuckable side of psychotic.
So it’s kind of crazy that his New York City stage debut came not in the original Broadway cast of some big musical, but at B.B. King’s on 42nd Street. He’s got a rock album to promote, you see. And while the casting gods get their shit together concerning his Broadway debut — we hope we don’t have to wait decades for it, a la Anthony Warlow — this was an OK way to fill the time.
It was also kind of nuts. Because Ramin’s album, as it turns out, is a rock album that also happens to contain some showtunes. And Ramin’s current live show is a rock show that also contains some showtunes. Which leaves us, the audience, in the semi-insane place of having to process folksy bluegrass numbers alongside songs from Ragtime. Not that we don’t love both bluegrass and Ragtime, it’s just that these are parts of our music collection that usually never stand side-by-side. Well, unless the sorting feature on iTunes is being kind of broken. To be clear: this wasn’t bad. It was just… worth mentioning.
Because nothing wherein Ramin Karimloo stands on a stage and sings, and talks in his good-humored, broadly-Canadian-accented way, wearing a t-shirt that seems to be gripping his body with vortex-like force can ever be bad. It just can’t. It’s kind of surreal, and a glass of wine or two will help you through, but it’s not bad.
Here’s an example. (And this wasn’t a hallucination, unless the staff snuck something into the calamari we all shared.) At some point, there was definitely a rock version of “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’” that casually segued into an acoustic ballad version of “Bring Him Home.” Because if you’re the best looking Phantom who ever lived, if you’re the hottest West End star to happen in a while, and if you look better in a clingy t-shirt and a vest than Steve Kazee, why would you NOT do a rock version of “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin” that casually segues into an acoustic ballad version of “Bring Him Home”? Right? I mean, sure, this was literally a dream medley in that it’s something that would only happen in your dreams. And not your daydreams, but your like… post-pepperoni-pizza-at-midnight dreams. But now we want Ramin to play Curly — a dreamcasting choice so obvious and yet so simultaneously obscure that we’re mad he thought of it before we did. So, that worked out.
It should be noted that the two showtune offerings on Ramin’s album are “The Music of the Night” and “Til I Hear You Sing,” the double-headed hydra of oldschool and newschool Andrew Lloyd Webber powerballadry — and he wouldn’t sing the latter. Curious? We thought so. We hope this has something to do with his imminent casting in the Broadway version of Love Never Dies, aka the best/worst musical of all time. Or maybe we secretly hope that he’s just sick of the damn Phantom and wants to just play bluegrass songs. We wouldn’t blame the guy. We feel the same way about the Phantom, sometimes. And by that, I mean that bluegrass just sometimes seems like a better idea than the Phantom. Even without that song, though, it was a good solid night of handsomeness and singing and thinking we were losing our damn minds. A typical night at the theater, folks.
Epic cell phone photo courtesy of The Mick.