Josh Groban’s latest concert based on his seventh studio album Stages, can be summed up in two short words – pure class.
As he steps into the spotlight and the first notes of Pure Imagination ring out around the sold-out 3000-seater auditorium, you know that Groban is a world apart from his contemporaries.
As the applause die from the blistering opening, the curtain pulls back to reveal an orchestra on an atmospherically dressed set replete with chandeliers, candelabra, draped curtains and a red carpet. The feel is one of both opulence and intimacy. Indeed, despite the grand scale of this auditorium, the whole evening has an air of intimacy, Groban shares (often self-deprecating) tales of his journey from childhood musical theatre nerd to global singing superstar – not that Groban acts like the superstar he is, a gifted raconteur, his genuine charm and graciousness have the crowd in the palm of his hand from the start.
While the stories lend a personal touch to the evening it is his technically brilliant, resonant baritone we are here to hear, and the song choices don’t disappoint: What I Did For Love from A Chorus Line is a great big barnstorming triumph that allows us to experience the effortless power Groban has, as does the Act One closer Anthem from Chess. Ballads, Bring Him Home and You’ll Never Walk Alone are moving in their sincerity and in Finishing the Hat and Children Will Listen, we hear just how perfect Groban’s voice is for the works of Stephen Sondheim.
Special guest, West End leading lady Louise Dearman duets with great success on Phantom of the Opera’s All I Ask of You and Carousel’s If I Loved You, as well as delivering a roof-raising Defying Gravity, the perfect choice from the only woman in musical theatre to have played the two leading roles in Wicked.
There are few who sound better at these songs than Groban, that he is as charismatic and warm as his singing voice is a delightful bonus. As he prepares for his first Broadway role, one fears that it may be a while before we get to see him again, we can only hope he doesn’t leave it too long.