Ramin Karimloo with Seth Rudetsky – Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Theater Review – February 25, 2023


Virginia G. Piper Theater, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Scottsdale AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Ramin Karimloo took a night off from his Broadway “Funny Girl” revival triumph to make his Arizona debut at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts in a breezy, unstructured session with host/accompanist Seth Rudetsky.  He sang winning renditions of Broadway standards amidst chatter with Rudetsky.  Much of the talk and jokes between songs were directed negatively at show-biz situations.

The strappingly handsome and statuesquely muscular Karimloo makes a striking stage appearance and his relaxed banter with Rudetsky was delivered using an easy swagger but it was the dozen plus song renditions that stunned a capacity crowd full of his local admirers.

Selections included pop standards from his London and Broadway hits including “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Misérables,” and the less successful “Love Never Dies,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ineffective attempt to write a “The Phantom of the Opera” sequel.  His only non-musical theater tune, was a pleasant, if undistinguished, folk song, “Watch Over Us.”  He played guitar accompaniment on some songs.

Karimloo was born in Iran, moved to Italy, and then to Canada where he was raised before landing in London where his musical theater career took off. His Broadway arrival began with his London hits leading to “Funny Girl” where he has been with the production since it debuted, without success, starring Beanie Feldstein.  When “Glee’s” Lea Michele replaced Feldstein as Fanny Brice the production turned into a popular moneymaker.

He talked about Colm Wilkinson’s appearance in Toronto’s “Les Misérables” which he saw as a teenager and was the thing that convinced him to pursue a performing career.  Interestingly, he doesn’t read music and hasn’t had lots of formal vocal training.

Highlights of Karimloo’s local appearance included a dramatic “Sunset Boulevard” opening, a limpid “Feed the Birds” from “Mary Poppins,” plus the big “Les Misérables” “The Phantom of the Opera,” and “Evita” showstoppers.

Karimloo’s commanding voice possesses a fine falsetto he uses artfully.  Occasionally, his strong nasal sound creeps into his selections.  His Scottsdale concert, his first solo concert in sometime, was extremely relaxed as demonstrated by both the performer and accompanist’s very casual attire and the concert was not rigorously staged.  Listening to Karimloo’s powerful voice was worth whatever structure the concert chose.

Before the concert, Scottsdale Center’s Managing Director, Meribeth Reeves, assured audiences that the venue’s 2023/24 season will include Broadway performers. It will be interesting to see which musical theater stars appear.  It will be hard to best this season’s musical theater star showcases.

Grade: A