Dreaming a dream

West End hits: Andy Reiss, right, with Beyond the Barricade singers, from left, Julie-Alanah Brighten, David Fawcett and Katie Leeming

Singer Andy Reiss could write a book on how not to get into an operatic career.

He never went to music school, never trained professionally — he winged it and reckons a lot of it was luck.

Reiss and fellow Beyond the Barricade musos play Queenstown this weekend.

It started as a side project in Manchester 17 years ago, after a stint playing Jean Valjean in the West End musical Les Miserables. He was joined by David Fawcett and the pair decided it might have some commercial value.

He never thought it would be touring globally nearly 20 years later.

Tunes from Les Miserables are the group’s signature but others include Miss Saigon, Lion King, West Side Story, Carousel, We Will Rock You, Evita and Jersey Boys.

There is no set favourite.

Reiss: “It varies every night for me. Musically, when it is a live set-up, if we hit the mark on a particular number that is an exciting thing to do and we hope to strike that most nights.

“Some nights things can change instrumentally or alter. We are all aware of each other and watching and listening and that is the exciting part of live touring. Vocally the Les Mis stuff at the end still gives the same kind of buzz.”

To decide who sings what, they all have a go and choose from there. It is about “layers”.

“The harmony side of things we do rewrite sections because sometimes, like in the finale piece, we’ve got four people singing what should be done by 30 people on stage. We have to adapt the music to suit us four. We are a small band that makes a very big sound.”

If a newbie musical comes along they will include it in the set list but audiences usually like to hear the classics.

The group is bringing a band with them — touring doesn’t allow for a full orchestral backing.

The 21-date nationwide tour is going well and they’ve been stoked with the reception they’ve had from Kiwi audiences.

None of them have been to New Zealand before. Reiss reckons touring is a great way to see the country. And Queenstown was one of the first dates in the diary.

Reiss: “It is absolutely fantastic. The whole way we have approached the tour is to be an experience, not just each place but NZ culture as a whole. The premise of Beyond the Barricade has always been to deliver, as far as we can, what people go and see West End shows for — what they listen to on stage, we hope to reproduce that. We want them to hear songs like they were sitting in the West End.”


Beyond The Barricade, Queenstown Memorial Centre, Sunday, 3pm. Tickets Adult: $89.90, concession: $79.90, Groups (over 10) $74.90, Four Ticket Offer, $299.60