Concert Review: 'Colm Wilkinson - Broadway, Christmas & Beyond' at Center for the Arts

Nathan Andrew Miller
NY Theatre Guide


One of the amazing things about theater is the ability for performers to make names for themselves after playing three or four roles successfully. Of course, there are performers who immediately propel to almost legendary status. In my opinion, Colm Wilkinson was, and continues to be, one such performer. He visited UB on Saturday night, backup singers and 7 piece band in tow.

It was an honor and a pleasure to be an audience member for this spectacle.

Wilkinson grew to fame as the original Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables,” and also the original Phantom in the Canadian production of “Phantom of the Opera.” The Irish-Canadian tenor performed both roles for decades, and Broadway lore is that he became somewhat of a mentor to another Canadian sensation by the name of Ramin Karimloo.

In his concert Saturday evening, Wilkinson created a set of both Broadway standards and popular music. His 72-year old physical instrument was suffering a little, he informed the audience that he’d recently thrown out his back, but he and his band took it all in stride. His vocal instrument, however, has not missed a beat. Wilkinson’s performance was smattered with storytelling, and his wit and humor added a personal touch. He’s obviously a performer who has his finger on the pulse of audience involvement. To say he knows how to “work a crowd” sounds crass, but he certainly had the audience on the edge of their seats the entire night.

He opened with “Music of the Night” from “Phantom of the Opera,” getting one of the mammoth songs out of the way immediately. His full falsetto has not petered out over the years, and his signature singing style still remains. Throughout the concert, Wilkinson soared through standards like “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “All That Jazz.” He also sang beautiful renditions of “Rolling in the Deep” and “Imagine.” He claimed the audience’s hearts with a touching song dedicated to his mother. The moment we were all waiting for, however, was not to disappoint. Once Wilkinson put on the signature Valjean jacket, every ear perked his way. If there was ever a question of Wilkinson’s superstardom, it was answered with this rendition. Even Wilkinson’s age and self-professed status as an “Irish cripple” could not stop him from letting the music soar. It was an honor and a pleasure to be an audience member for this spectacle. The only slight glitch in the evening came in the form of Wilkinson’s backing vocalists, who, while incredibly talented, left a little to be desired by way of performance. Granted, it can sometimes be difficult to find the correct level of performance as a backing vocalist, and not much could hold back the incredible tidal wave of emotion and passion from this performance.

Running Time: 2 Hours, no intermission.

“Colm Wilkinson – Broadway, Christmas & Beyond” played for one night only on November 26, 2016 at the Center for the Arts in Amherst. For more information on upcoming presentations, click here.

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