The rising British boy band Collabro, winners of Britain’s Got Talent, sits down with Broadway Direct to chat about their love of musical theatre.
In sitting down to interview the British boy band Collabro, one is instantly put at ease by four charming young men who are eager and excited to share their experiences singing the great songs from Broadway and West End musicals. If you aren’t yet familiar with Collabro and you are a fan of musical theater, get ready to be delighted by their talent for transforming show tunes into soulful renditions with four-part harmonies and beautifully melded voices. The band, comprised of Jamie Lambert, Michael Auger, Thomas Redgrave, and Matthew Pagan, rose to stardom as the 2015 victors of Britian’s Got Talent. They have had two hit albums, Stars and Act One, with the former having climbed to the top of the charts and the latter landing in the No. 2 slot. Such a fascinating story for a quartet of artists who had only started singing together a year earlier. Their most recent album, Home, is poised to deliver another success, featuring musical theater classics such as “Send in the Clowns,” “Journey to the Past,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” and “This Is the Moment.”
When speaking of their favorite musicals, the band has a wide variety of tastes. Lambert is enthralled with Dear Evan Hansen, citing Pasek and Paul as one of his favorite composing teams, and “Waving Through a Window” his favorite song. Auger’s tastes lean toward musical comedy, with aspirations to some day play Emmett and Warner in Legally Blonde. Redgrave is an ardent admirer of John Bucchino’s musical revue It’s Only Life, a piece about how we are shaped our experiences. Miss Saigon is the musical that resonates most deeply with Pagan, who says he watches the DVD of the anniversary concert repeatedly.
Clearly, each member of Collabro feels passionately about the songs of musical theater. When asked about how show tunes speak to them and how they appeal to Collabro’s audience, Redgrave shared: “We like telling a story through song and we like showing emotion with an audience. We feel like musical theater is the one genre of music where you can do that with the most impact. When we are singing onstage, when we are empathizing with an audience, when we are connecting emotionally with them, that is what musical theater is to us and why we do what we do.”
The band feels confident about their growing audience, excited that their music is proving to be more than just a niche market. Pagan reflects, “I think because we’re an English boy band, a group of young guys who just have a passion for musical theater, I think that, kind of, in itself, broadens our audience. For example, we’ve had concerts where three generations come to see the show: a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter. It’s amazing how we have this wide audience.”
When picking music for their repertoire, there is a challenge to narrowing down which great musical theater songs they can and will perform. “Obviously, there are so many amazing musical theater songs out there. Although we can reach a wide audience — [being on Britain’s Got Talent helped] and that opened the doors for what songs we can do — we also feel as though we have to pick those songs that are so well known that when people look at the back of the CD they will say, ‘I know that song; I’ll buy it,’” Auger explains their process. “What we try to do is sit down together and write a list of a variety of musical theater songs and make sure we have a good mix of old and new songs, some up-tempo. Obviously the more albums we make and the more fans we secure, the more risks we can take.”
“Once we have our songs decided, we work with a vocal arranger in order to make sure that we get the harmonies that we want,” shares Lambert. “We’ll sit down and rehearse and try different things. We might say, ‘You sound better on this part,’ or ‘Why don’t we try this harmony?’ And then once we have the songs exactly how we like them, we go to the recording studio. Once we have the album recorded, then we take it front of an audience.”
Collabro is excited about the current batch of shows running on Broadway, but the boys admit they haven’t had time to see any of the recent productions in New York. They did get to see Miss Saigon when it was in London and rave about the talents of Eva Noblezada. “We haven’t been in New York much, but want to see more this year,” Redgrave divulges the band’s experience in the United States. “It’s always interesting to see how U.S. audiences respond to us. American fans are passionate and enthusiastic. They are also generous, always giving us a lot of gifts. One fan gave us a whole box of moonshine.”
When asked what was next for Collabro, the band shared that they will be touring the United Kingdom for the next three months. They spoke with great excitement about the opportunity to tour with pop singer and actor Sir Cliff Richard, a national treasure in Britain. They also look forward to creating another album and spending more time in the United States. American audiences will most assuredly embrace this talented and genial foursome, especially those who love an expertly executed show tune.
Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals and maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.