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Review: Colm Wilkinson show mesmerizes; a 5 out 5 performance

Grania Litwin
Arts Reporter

Celebrated Broadway star and marquee character Colm Wilkinson mesmerized a Victoria audience last night with his show Broadway and Beyond.

Dressed in black tuxedo and black tie-less shirt, the Irish tenor, who made a name for himself starring in Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera, walked on stage and posed meaningfully with one hand over his face.

When the applause died down he opened with Music of the Night, his signature piece sung close to 1,700 times in Phantom. In ringing tones, and showing off his legendary breath control with impossibly long notes, he invited the audience to surrender to its "darkest dreams."

Fantasies unwound to the "sweet intoxication," as this consummate performer gathered the audience into the palm of his hand.

Here was the man who played the role of Judas in the Dublin and London productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Che Guevara on the original white album of the musical Evita -- a phenomenal stage presence, not to mention down-to-earth and friendly.

The evening was more like a party than a concert, with this master of stage musicals, cabaret, records, radio, and television in complete control from the start. And many in the audience were delighted to join the ranks of more than 3.5 million who saw him in Phantom -- a show that clocked more than $24 million in advance sales before it even opened, he told the audience. The role earned him a Dora Mavor Moore award and he later received another for the role Jean Valjean in Toronto's Les Mis. He was also nominated for a Tony.

From high to low register, whether with quivering falsetto, or husky deep tones, this Paddy's show was an exciting fusion of music, drama, comedy, character, heart and romance.

He told stories about Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones, sang a cognac-sweet Danny Boy, had the audience clap along with Irish drinking songs like Whiskey in the Jar, was a country western-chameleon with the Tennessee Waltz, a Vegas-style jazz entertainer in Hello Young Lovers, and revealed his true-black soul with a version of Ray Charles's Take These Chains From My Heart.

All the while with big Irish eyes smiling, oozing charm and fun.

There was lots of banter with the audience, and at one point people yelled out they had travelled from Prince Edward Island, Toronto, Los Angeles and the Isle of Man to hear him.

"Is it wrong to be this excited by a man who is the same age as my father?" asked one young lady at intermission.

"It's like hitting the musical jackpot," said another. "Unbelievable."

Backed up by a seven-piece band that included base, guitar, woodwinds, drums, keyboards, cello and piano, he was also joined on stage by Tony Award winner Gretha Boston and Edmonton-born singer and actress Susan Gilmour who sizzled on-stage.

At press time the three-hour concert was still in progress.

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