By Tom Alvarez
Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
The Cabaret at the Columbia Club continues to solidify its growing reputation as one of the leading cabaret venues in the country. Proof of that was the appearance of Ramin Karimloo, in "From Broadway to Bluegrass" at the downtown venue. One of the brightest stars on Broadway, Karimloo performed three shows there over the weekend. Examiner.com was present at his Friday opening night performance.
Karimloo, a Canadian, born in Iran, is a singer and actor with a flourishing career. He recently performed in the world premiere of "The Prince of Broadway!," in Japan, and is scheduled to begin rehearsals for the Broadway production in September. In 2014 Karimloo won a Tony nomination for his role as Valjean in the Broadway production of "Les Miserables." He played the same role in the West End production. He also performed in the role of the phantom in the West End production of "The Phantom of the Opera." Most recently he performed at New York's Lincoln Center in a concert version of "The Secret Garden" that won rave reviews.
Also a recording artist, Karimloo who performs his own unique genre of music, he calls Broadgrass, has a solo album titled "Human Heart."
The swarthy, handsome and muscular Karimloo wore a black t-shirt and jeans and sported a sleeve tattoo. He played to a sold out Cabaret audience, including fans that came from three countries outside the U.S. to see him perform.
Also an accomplished musician, Karimloo played an acoustic guitar and was joined by James Sampliner on piano and Sergio Ortega on guitar, banjo and mandolin.
The charismatic, yet humble, Karimloo turned in a powerful performance that not only showcased his potent vocal powers but also his superb dramatic skills. The program consisted of Broadway show tunes and several of his original bluegrass/country songs.
"We're All in This Together," by Old Crow Medicine Show, which opened the show, quickly established Karimloo's credentials as a bluegrass singer. It was followed by "Till I Hear You Sing," a soaring ballad from "Love Never Dies," the "Phantom of the Opera" sequel, in which he appeared on the West End.
Making Karimloo's show unique was his Broadgrass concept in which he combines Broadway show tunes and bluegrass music, about which he is also passionate—so much so that he plans to record another album of it soon, in Nashville.
Karimloo's angelic rendition of "Bring Him Home," from "Les Miserables," and expressive interpretation of "Music of the Night" from "The Phantom of the Opera" gave ample evidence of why he is regarded as one of the most sought after performers on The Great White Way.
"When Does It Go Away," "Letting the Last One Go," and "Broken" from Karimloo's "The Road to Find Out" EP, revealed Karimloo's gift for songwriting as well as his bluegrass sensibilities.
For his encore Karimloo retreated to the rear of the Crystal Terrace Room where he performed solo, a moving a capella rendition of "I Wish the Wars Were All Over," followed by "Edelweiss" from "The Sound of Music," performed with Ortega. Later the two returned to the stage to join Sampliner in performing "Do You Hear the People Sing," from "Le Mis."
One thing is certain. Having witnessed the talents of a cavalcade of performers who have appeared over the six-year history of the Cabaret, this writer has reviewed many of the world's best. But there is no question that Karimloo is a true original and that his singular performance was simply unforgettable.
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