Is John Barrowman wasting his talent?

Review of John Barrowman at the Royal Albert Hall, 4th October 2010

Let’s get this straight.  We used to be fans of John Barrowman, and we left his concert in April 2008 feeling delighted and exhilarated.  So what went wrong?  It’s only been two years.  It seems churlish to criticise such a lovely man who is clearly talented and incredibly dedicated.  But this is showbusiness and we paid £35 to see him.  We feel cheated.

It is deeply ironic that John Barrowman, who should have been a household name because of his Musical Theatre talent and success, become hugely famous through playing a character in Doctor Who.  And his appearance as Captain Jack Harkness was a brilliant cameo.  But as he gets more famous, he seems to focus more on more on activities where he is interchangeable with a number of other people.  Instead of focussing on his Musical Theatre roots – where only a small minority of performers can do what he does. 

Perhaps we were naive to expect him to really stretch himself for his live show.  The problem is that John Barrowman can sing just about anything and make it sound great.  But can he really add value to popular songs that have already been made famous by their creators?  We don’t think so.  It’s just high-class Karaoke.  Not since Daniel Day-Lewis abandoned acting for cabinet making have we felt so frustrated.

If you think we are being harsh, here are some examples:

‘Get the Party Started’.  Mmm.  Why is it up to us to get the party started?  Isn’t that your job?

‘Viva Las Vegas’.  Well, perhaps there is some relevance here.  We certainly gambled and lost.

‘Firefly’.  A song for his nieces and nephews.  Well, we would ask, did his nieces and nephews pay for a ticket?  And if so, when do we get to make our requests?

‘Spiderman’.  Let’s draw a veil over the ‘dancing’ we were treated to whilst this song was being performed.  It’s a theme tune.  It’s there so that when you hear it on the TV, you know the programme is on.  And actually, Spiderman can’t do everything a spider can.  But we’ll let that go.

‘Man I feel like a woman’.  Ermm.  Can’t remember, but we think this was something to do with dragging up for La Cage Aux Folles.  Wouldn’t this have been the perfect moment to sing a woman’s song from Musical Theatre? – we fondly recall John’s rendition of ‘With one Look’ in his Kennedy Centre concert (many years ago and sadly not live).

‘Copacabana’  Yep, it’s a fun song.  Not really noted for its lyrics or plot, so we are a bit puzzled as to why the heavy-handed ‘interpretive dance’ was included at this point.  And as usual with John Barrowman you can hear every word.  Unfortunately.

Of course there were some high points and songs from Musical Theatre which proved that Barrowman has lost none of his ability to bring a song to life.  Making the pain only more exquisite.  It costs nothing to sit at home knowing how talented John Barrowman is.  When we pay money to see him we expect to see some evidence for it.

So that’s the review, but we do have one or two bones to pick with Mr Barrowman, while we’re at it:

1)  Bringing your parents on stage.  The last time we looked, John Barrowman was in show business.  If he ever appears on ‘This Is Your Life’ (at this rate he is more likely to be hosting it), he is more than welcome to publicly honour his family.  Bringing his parents up on stage once was touching.  After that it’s an indulgence.

2)  Denying his musical theatre past.  When John Barrowman joined Sony there was a big splash of publicity and he referred on several occasions to his 2007 album ‘Another Side’ as his first album.  Oh really, so who was that other John Barrowman who produced the fantastic 2003 solo album ‘Reflections from Broadway’?

3)  Continuing to participate in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s casting shows after they became a blatant money-making exercise.

Don’t get us wrong – John Barrowman has already done more than enough to prove that he is a shining talent who deserves a long and prosperous career.  It’s just not one that we will be investing in any time soon.

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8 Responses to Is John Barrowman wasting his talent?

  1. Pingback: Re-writing history: more ‘confessions’ from Andrew Lloyd Webber | rageoffstage

  2. Kevin says:

    He is the worst actor, cheese narrative and the voice of Karaoke. He must knows some serious connections as sorry no talent whatsoever


  3. zaina says:

    {..moderated..] – these songs haven’t been chosen by lottery. Each of them is special for John. He talked about it many times. Btw. He is great singer, he has beautiful, strong voice, perfect diction, great sensitivity and discipline. [..moderated..]


  4. Rebecca says:

    He has said in the past he doesn’t always get a say in song choices, if you are working for sony they are not going to pay for the rights to a song when they can get you to sing one they already own the rights to.


    • rageoffstage says:

      Hi Rebecca – fair point, but that is what this post is about – choices. John had his reasons for going to Sony and he clearly had to accept their terms – why else would he suddenly pretend he’d never put out an album before? The question is, did he sell out? And if so, is it a waste of his talent?


  5. Cardiff Jim says:

    God, what a mean-spirited review.


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