Review: John Barrowman with Seth Rudetsky, Leicester Square Theatre

This weekend only, John Barrowman and Seth Rudetsky deliver conversation and concert realness at the Leicester Square Theatre in London

“Passionate as hell 
But always in control”

I hadn’t originally intended to go and see John Barrowman in this intimate concert setting but my Aunty Jean is a big fan and so decided to make a day trip out of it, and I got to go along for the ride. This micro-run of three performances fell under the aegis of Seth Rudetsky’s intermittent Broadway @ Leicester Square Theatre series, mixing performance with conversation to create a unique and relaxed vibe.

Barrowman’s force of personality means the anecdotes flow out of him with barely any prompting from the wonderfully acerbic Rudetsky but with such a storied career, he’s certainly earned the right to tell them.

Whether talking about breaking into the West End with Anything Goes or cracking the TV market, first with Doctor Who in the UK and then Arrow in the US, there’s juicy gossip aplenty (Shonda Rhimes and Elaine Paige’s ears may have been burning…). But there’s also an admirable frankness about the way in which he’s never been willing to compromise on the openness of his sexuality, at a time when to do so was far from commonplace.

And sprinkled throughout are strong renditions of a range of the songs that have touched him in his career. Barrowman’s love of a powerhouse finale means I generally like the subtler moments of the first halves of his interpretations but it is hard not to be seduced by the passion of ‘Marry Me A Little’, ‘In the Most Unusual Way’ and his rewrite from Wicked in ‘The Doctor and I’.

The audience request section came up with two winners as well. Melissa Manchester’s ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’ and a duet on Chess‘ ‘I Know Him So Well’ really benefited from the spontaneous energy of both performer and accompanist, emphasising just how talented both are, especially when the performative guard is dropped just a little.

John Barrowman with Seth Rudetsky is booking at Leicester Square Theatre, London until 14th April

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