About Beyond the Barricade
In 1996 Andy Reiss and David Fawcett were asked to arrange and perform a series of musical theatre concerts for the MENCAP Charity.
Andy and David had met while performing in the original Manchester company of Les Miserables.
The first concert took place in a small marquee in the grounds of a country house in Piltdown, Sussex.
The concert followed the successful formula employed by Andy Reiss, who had developed this musical concert format with his earlier charity fundraising group, Ovation – putting together an evening of classical musical theatre hits with the sole aim of delivering them as if they were being heard in the original production.
Over the next few years, the show began to take on a life of its own. Andy and David recruited two brilliant stars in Rebecca Thornhill and Carmen Cusack, following a move to only cast Les Miserables principals.
With the decision to plan a full UK Tour in 1999 the show, after much deliberation, was renamed ‘Beyond the Barricade’
Beyond the Barricade launched into a major UK Tour and swiftly built up a reputation for its slick no nonsense style – giving musical theatre songs a bold concert format treatment – but with the conviction and intention to deliver the material as if the audience were watching the original performance.
The refusal to use ‘click’ tracks also enhanced the dynamic feel of the show. Andy, together with John Cornford – the show’s original keyboard player – worked hard to capture the feel of the original orchestrations of the chosen musicals, and to this day every musical note is still played and sung live – very rare indeed.
Beyond the Barricade celebrated its first major year on the circuit with a Gala Performance at the Royal Albert Hall. They were joined onstage by a fantastic 100 voice choir made up from people who had worked with Andy on the numerous Les Miserables Masterclasses he had directed. Such a bold move may have been perceived as being a step too far, but the support from fans of Beyond the Barricade made it more than worthwhile. It was a night to remember.
The show carried on growing and developing, but never losing sight of its original premise to deliver the songs with the truth and conviction intended by their composers.
Beyond the Barricade claimed its own space in the history of musical theatre shows when the production reached its 10th Anniversary in 2009 and celebrated in style with a Gala Concert at the wonderful Birmingham Symphony Hall.
Over the years we have had the good fortune to work with some great female voices of the West End – many who have gone on to great things following their association with BTB, and we continue to wish them all the very best.
Our concert venues now include theatres in Ireland, Spain, Malta and Denmark, and most recently on the three Cunard liners, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2, and Queen Victoria, but our continued presence on the theatre scene in the UK is down to the fantastic support of our audience.
As Beyond the Barricade launches into 2014 and its 15th Anniversary Year, we are more than aware that thousands of fans return year after year to support us, and for that we remain eternally grateful.
Beyond the modern musical
The formation of Beyond the Barricade came out of the dramatic growth in popularity of modern musical theatre in the 1980’s.
1985 saw the now legendary Les Miserables take its first uneasy steps at the Barbican Theatre. A French historical novel turned into a musical, and then translated into English – who would have thought that over a quarter of a century later the production would still be as successful as ever.
We must not forget that it was Andrew Lloyd Webber who paved the way for the influx of the ‘blockbuster’ musicals with his delivery of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita in the 70’s. He then cleverly composed his classic take on some TS Eliot poems. Cats opened in 1981 and remains the longest running touring production in the world.
The simplicity of Willy Russells Blood Brothers also proved that complex lighting, staging and scenery were no substitute for a wonderful story and brilliant memorable melodic songs. Opening in 1983, the production incredibly fell just short of celebrating 25 years in the West End.
Starlight Express (1984) and The Phantom of the Opera (1986) cemented Lloyd Webbers position as the leading composer of the new musical theatre explosion, but following hot on his heels were Boublil and Schonberg, who ended the 80’s with another success story.
Miss Saigon opened in 1989 and created another powerful fixture in the West End. 2014 sees its welcome return.
The 80’s and early 90’s saw the West End develop a successful export business over to Broadway, with legendary producer Cameron Mackintosh making profitable transfers with Cats, Les Miserables, Phantom of The Opera, and Miss Saigon.
The mid 90’s saw Broadway fight back and the West End theatre scene soon became home to Chicago, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.
The development of the Disney musicals then gave rise to the pop/rock ‘karaoke’ musicals, and a movement away from the heart-pounding blockbusters of the 80’s.
Of course the most successful of these are Mamma Mia, and We Will Rock You and more recently, The Jersey Boys.
The lighter feel to the atmosphere of West End continued with Hairspray, Legally Blonde and Spamalot, with the only serious challenger to the ‘big musical’ scene coming from Wicked.
The expansive long-runs still exist – most notably with Les Mis and Phantom battling it out to be the ultimate longest running musical, but new musicals such as ‘Once’ offer a fresh, welcome contrast.
As Beyond the Barricade heads into its 15th consecutive year of touring we can look back on what has been a fantastic period of growth and change in the world of musical theatre.
We cannot include everything from every style and genre, but we hope that our selection provides you with an entertaining and exciting evening.