Rarely does a review of musical theatre boy band Collabro start without mentioning their 2014 win in the eighth series of Britain’s Got Talent. It’s now five years, four albums and as many tours on from their triumph. From meeting to rehearse in a London pub to winning the show in a few short months, they’ve supported Barry Manilow on his arena tour and now they’re headlining venues around the country on their biggest tour to date – The Road to the Albert Hall. Such is their stature that they have managed to secure West End veteran Kerry Ellis as a supporting player in their latest two-hour show.
The evening gets off to a fine start with Georgia and the Vintage Youth whose breezy sound has Caro Emerald vibes delivered with an Adele/Amy Winehouse vocal. The trio have an enlivening effect and the audience appear appreciative of the chirpy, bluesy, ska, poppy tunes. The set is short and sweet and the Collaborators, as the band dubs their fans, are more than ready for the main attraction.
Undoubtedly classic musical theatre is still very much their metier, but Collabro have branched out into more popular jukebox musical territory in this latest set. They bounce onto the stage to the strains of Grease is the Word with choreography à la The Overtones, there’s also a spirited medley from Jersey Boys to close the first act, as well as an up-beat pop/soul encore. Rest assured though that all the classic musical theatre big-hitters are here: Maria, As If We Never Said Goodbye, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, On My Own, Why God Why?, are present in the first act, interspersed with Ellis’ rendition of a Brian May arrangement of The Way We Were. There’s Electricity with local 32-piece Stageworks choir, Glee’s version of Journey’s Faithfully, their original song Lighthouse, Bring Him Home, the almost inevitable medley of Greatest Showman songs, given a cabaret treatment by Ellis (This is Me and A Million Dreams), and Collabro’s own take on Never Enough, there’s Defying Gravity and the song that started it all for them – Stars, making up the second act.
While each singer has their own chance to shine, they are undoubtedly at their best when singing in harmony, sounding glorious when singing together. There are a few issues with pitch throughout, created mostly by matching the wrong song to the wrong singer and while the quartet feel like a thoroughly nice bunch of chaps, the dialogue to the audience seems stiff and contrived. There’s also an issue that the group themselves acknowledge – too many “sad” songs – the ballads overwhelm and while they are stunningly good, they do nothing to create a balanced journey through the course of the evening.
It will be interesting to see how the group move forward after several tours, to deliver something original next time. Collabro are polished and professional and undeniably provide a first class evening’s entertainment, fans will not be disappointed.
Continuing on tour throughout the UK this spring.