Concert review: Collabro brings mass appeal to theater tunes

Vladimir Bunoan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 01 2018 09:57 PM | Updated as of Oct 22 2018 10:03 PM

MANILA – They may look like the new boyband on the block but Collabro isn’t just another all-male pop group from the UK.

That was certainly the initial impression of the judges of “Britain’s Got Talent” when five young men auditioned in 2014 just a month after the group was formed. But when they sang “Stars” from “Les Miserables,” all suggestions that Collabro was just another boyband wannabe were quickly dispelled. Singing show tunes from “Les Miz” all the way to finals of the UK search, Collabro eventually won “Britain’s Got Talent” that season and developed an avid fan base of “Collaborators” around the world.

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Four years and three albums later, Collabro, now down to four members, is currently on an Asian tour, which includes a stop in the Philippines with a one-night-only concert at Resorts World Manila held Monday night.

Living up to its billing as a “musical theater group,” Michael Auger, Jamie Lambert, Matt Pagan and Tom Redgrave sang mostly show tunes, save for Frank Sinatra’s swinging “That’s Life,” “Come What May” from the movie “Moulin Rouge,” and their first original song “Lighthouse” from its latest album, “Home,” which was being sold at the lobby for P1,000 a pop.

Even with a bare stage with only four stools and pre-recorded accompaniment, Collabro in concert proved to be entertaining, aided by the gorgeous lighting design and effective use of the Resorts Worlds' giant video screen which served as the main backdrop. 

Opening with the apt “This is the Moment” from “Jekyll and Hyde,” Collabro is a strange yet delightful hybrid of the tenor groups like Il Divo and Blake and the pop sound of boy bands. That’s because all four members have different vocal styles – Lambert has the more classical trained tenor, Pagan has a style more attuned to musical theater, while Auger and Redgrave have a more pop tone (and appeal). 

But when the four guys harmonize, that’s when the magic really happens. This isn’t mere Broadway karaoke; Collabro takes these musical showstoppers and rearranges them to specifically suit their kind of crossover sound. Typically, all four members take turns doing solos for the verses in each song then harmonize in the chorus. That’s why even if they take on “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked” or “Send in the Clowns,” they don’t sound awkward at all. 

Concert review: Collabro brings mass appeal to theater tunes 1
Collabro received a standing ovation from the Resorts World crowd. Photo by author

Theater geeks may find the group’s choices of songs rather safe, wholesome and predictable. The only real surprise was “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from “Funny Girl,” which was given a swinging big band rearrangement worthy of Sinatra. 

They did the undying “Music of the Night” from “The Phantom of the Opera,” but nicely followed it up with a song from its lesser-known sequel “Love Never Dies.” 

Naturally, there were several songs from “Les Miserables,” which Collabro seemed to have mastered. The group was just faultless and affecting in “Bring Him Home,” “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables,” “I Dreamed a Dream” and the closer “Stars.”

But their choice of encore – a suite from “Jersey Boys,” with the four members in red jackets – was a wise touch, allowing the audience to loosen up while still keeping with their image as musical theater guys.

Hopefully Collabro's fans would eventually become theatergoers and support actual musical productions in the future.