ANDY Reiss could read music at the age of five – but took the long route to stage stardom.
The creator of “best of the musicals” show Beyond The Barricade eventually hit the West End but only because of a chance audition after years of working in child care law.
“I was always surrounded by music from an early age with my parents and grandparents being involved in Hednesford Salvation Army brass band,” explains the singer, who made his name in Les Miserables. “By the age of five I had learnt how to read and play music. I think that definitely gave me a good grounding in music for my future.
“I played in a few bands during my later teenage years, but I always loved performing in the local musical theatre societies too.”
However, Andy didn’t follow his passion for a career at first.
“I went to university and studied economics with child care law, and worked within that field for a number of years,” he explains.
“However, most of my spare time was given over to performing on stage. I then attended an open audition for the first production of Les Miserables outside the West End, just because I wanted to give it a go, and was very surprised when they offered me a contract.
“I thought it would just be 12 months’ work and I’d go back to my day job. I never dreamed I would end up touring with the show in Manchester, Dublin and Edinburgh, and then transferring to the West End. It was also a great privilege to return to Les Mis, as the resident director for the first National Tour.”
He then set up Beyond the Barricade, a concert portrayal of the great songs in musical theatre, all performed live by former West End stars. Andy is joined by David Fawcett, Katie Leeming and Poppy Tierney to sing classics from the likes of The Phantom of The Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Jersey Boys, Miss Saigon, Hamilton and, of course, Les Miserables.
“The original concept came about when David and I were performers in Les Miserables,” says Andy. “I saw the potential of creating a concert version of some of the most popular songs from the musical theatre genre.
“I wanted to make sure the songs were true to the original versions, so that the audience could invest in sitting and listening to a concert version, but be completely immersed in the storytelling of each particular song,” Andy says.
“We take our audience on a journey through some of the greatest stage musicals.”
The 20th anniversary tour of Beyond the Barricade reaches the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, on Sunday 13 January.