Just like Lewis Carroll's Alice, I slipped down an Internet rabbit hole and I found myself face to face with Collabro, a musical theater boy band from Britain. Suddenly it was 1966, The Monkees were on, and I was in love with the shy one again.
Five tenors, ages 20 to 24, each with a hardscrabble back story and a passion for show tunes. That's Collabro.
Terminally adorable, with simple harmonies, they were the winners of "Britain's Got Talent" in June. I don't know what I was Googling when I stumbled on their stunning audition for the show, but I was hooked.
I have loved musical theater since I was in high school. Nothing raises goose bumps like a story told with song. The energy from a strong set of pipes will carry even the thinnest script. Musical theater is a gift to the world. "Rent," "Phantom," "Les Mis," "West Side Story," "Dreamgirls," "Hair," "Camelot," "Cats," "Chorus Line," "Chicago." Just the titles create a rush of songs that will get stuck in your head.
When the members of Collabro, who go by their first names, took the stage to introduce themselves — a laborer, a gas station attendant, a clerk at a hospital, a waiter in a Japanese restaurant and a kitchen salesman — and to admit that they'd only been together a month, the redoubtable Simon Cowell rolled his eyes.
Great, you could hear the great impresario thinking, another boy band. I am bored already.
But just as Susan Boyle did in 2009 when she shocked the judges on the first note of "I Dreamed a Dream," the boys opened their mouths and removed any doubt. Singing "Stars" from "Les Miserable," they brought the audience and the judges to their feet. Even the dismissive Mr. Cowell. The audition was a smash.
The guys — Richard, Matt, Michael, Tom and Jamie — dubbed their fans the "Collaborators," and went to work on Facebook and Twitter to drum up the votes to boost them into the finals. They needn't have worked so hard. Their semi-final performance of "Bring Him Home," also from "Les Mis," would have easily propelled them to the top.
When they were announced the winners, their display of surprise and elation was as pure as their sound. You have to love it when kids see their dreams come true. They earned 250,000 British pounds and a chance to perform in front of the queen. Jamie said he was going to use some of the money to take his "mam" on a nice trip.
These are guys who have been banging their heads up against auditions since they sang in their first musicals as kids. Richard even earned money for school by singing on street corners for spare change.
Jamie and Matt knew each other from touring in shows, and they wanted to find a way to sing for their own pleasure. So they used social media to track down like-minded souls, met in a pub, sang a few bars and the rest, as they say, is history. They thought they might get gigs on cruise lines. "Britain's Got Talent" was an afterthought.
Their first album will be out at the end of the month. They will tour the United Kingdom in January — dates keep being added because the shows keep selling out. They'd give anything for a guest spot on "Glee."
The song list on their album "Stars" is a mix. "Over the Rainbow" and John Legend. But it is true to their musical core: beautiful music beautifully sung.
There plenty of screaming girls in the audience of "Britain's Got Talent." But the bad news for the boys might be that I am their key demographic — women of a certain age who have always loved the magic and energy of musical theater. Nobody really cares about us as fans. We don't go to lots of concerts and we don't download 1,000 songs and we don't have a CD collection that fills a bookshelf.
But for us, finding Collabro is like finding that nice young man who is still awfully fond of his mam. So much so that he'd like to share his astonishing good luck with her, and take her on a trip.
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