Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Ramin Karimloo with Seth Rudetsky
Karimloo's concert was part of the Seth Rudetsky concert series, which featured Rudetsky accompanying him on the piano and also asking Ramin a series of questions between songs about his career and his past in an informal interview format.
While Karimloo was born in Iran, his family left that country when he was very young and they eventually moved to a small town in Canada where he grew up. He first found success playing various roles in Les Misérables in London, including Enjolras, Marius, and ultimately, Jean Valjean, and also played both Raoul and the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera. He was cast again as the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to that hit musical, Love Never Dies, and he also played the Phantom in the 25th anniversary concert production of Phantom at London's Royal Albert Hall.
Karimloo sang songs from all three of those musicals during his concert. His delivery of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" from Les Misérables was grounded and moving and, with Rudetsky, the two delivered a driving "Confrontation" from that show. From The Phantom of the Opera, Karimloo sang a soaring "The Music of the Night" that perfectly showed off his gorgeous voice and demonstrated why he was chosen to play the Phantom in the sequel; his delivery of "'Til I Hear You Sing" from Love Never Dies was incredible, with clear and powerful top notes.
Part of the fun with the Rudetsky series of concerts is that there is a chaotic nature as the singer may not always know what Rudetsky has planned next for them to sing as well as what questions they'll be asked. The fact that Karimloo had come almost directly from his Funny Girl performances to appear in Scottsdale and that they said they hadn't had much time to rehearse added to the muddled and unscripted fun. There were even a few times when Karimloo forgot the lyrics to the songs, so they started the song over, and also, when Rudetsky suggested they'd sing a song neither had planned for, that Rudetsky was trying to remember what notes to play. The audience seemed to fully enjoy the impromptu nature of the evening and the quick wit of Karimloo and Rudetsky, who came across as good friends who enjoy joking around with each other.
Karimloo spoke passionately about one of his classes he took as a youngster that focused on The Phantom of the Opera, which included taking a school trip to see Colm Wilkinson as the Phantom in the Canadian production of the show. Karimloo was blown away by that experience and said from that day on whenever asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he replied "the Phantom." Rudetsky commented about how Ramin's experience shows how important arts education is in schools and said that if Ramin hadn't been in that class and seen Colm Wilkinson in that production he may never have gone on to have the career he's had.
Rudetsky had Karimloo sing "Evermore" from the film version of Beauty and the Beast as he was up for the part of the Beast in that film. His performance of that song was simply beautiful and quite moving. Other highlights of the evening included a clear and bright delivery of "High Flying Adored" from Evita, an earthy duet of "Worlds Apart" from Big River, a rousing "Anthem" from Chess, and a heartfelt "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins. Encores included a vibrant "Being Alive" from Company and a touching "Ol' Man River" from Show Boat. Karimloo also played the guitar proficiently on several of the songs.
I've mentioned this before in other reviews of shows at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts but it's worth repeating–this is one of the best venues in town for concerts, as the sound is crystal clear, the sightlines are completely unobstructed due to the stadium seating, and while it is a fairly large venue you still get an intimate sense and feel that you are close to the performers on stage even if you're in the last row.
Ramin Karimloo with Seth Rudetsky performed at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on February 24, 2023. For information on upcoming concerts at the SCPA, please visit www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.