I remember the first time I came across Nadim Naaman. It was 2012, and two of my friends and I were at Stage Door of Her Majesty’s Theatre as one of them wanted to leave some gifts there for him. He actually caught up with us there and watching him interact with my friend I was struck by his smile and sweet, humble nature. At the time, as my friend was the massive fan and he already knew her from previous outings, I didn’t want to intrude on their encounter so I hung back, but he was actually lovely enough to say hello to us, too. I left that Stage Door not only liking him immensely just from a few seconds of his greeting me, but with a feeling he’d fast grow to be a talent I am privileged to have in my life. Nowadays, when he’s not treading the boards over at that very same theatre, this time as Raoul (he covered the role back then), Nadim is also an immensely talented songwriter. His first album We All Want the Same is a staple in my regular playlist on my iPod, and I was left hoping he would see fit to repeat the experience one day.
That in mind, this past weekend, whilst what felt like the entirety of my theatrically inclined Twitter Timeline could be found at Trafalgar Square for West End Live (we swung by briefly and given my circumstances I can say with absolute sincerity: never again), I could be found at the Hippodrome Casino, with a couple of my good friends, at the launch of Nadim’s second album Sides.
To be able to take a leap from musical theatre to releasing your own material is something I admire immensely, not only because it’s intriguing and great fun to see another side of a performer’s talent, but because I think it showcases huge bravery and commitment, to put yourself out there and say: I want to share with you what I’ve created, in my own words, and it might not be what you expect to hear. Nadim’s been clever though, he has also included musical theatre on the album, so you gain an insight into both sides of what he is about as an artist, hence the album’s apt title. He also took us on a journey through other musicians that have influenced his life, and a reference he made to Billy Joel before launching into a rendition of The Downeaster Alexa comes back to me as I write this: he said that Billy’s songs always have a premise to them, inspired by people, places or things and that he tries to emulate Billy’s example in his own writing style. For me, Nadim has learnt extremely well; his writing amazes me consistently in its sincerity and versatility. We’d go from the super sleek Bond theme homage: Blinded by Fire to the joyful, infectious optimism of This’ll Be the Year, and pretty much every emotion and style in between. I always find something in Nadim’s writing I can connect with in some way, because it seems to have an endearing human quality to it, whatever that might be: joy, despair, love, loss, life. I believe he has a real gift for making the ordinary and familiar extraordinary and that’s what moves me so deeply about his work. What struck me immediately and throughout the set, was that whether it was his own song, musical theatre, or any cover (aside from Billy Joel, Genesis, Queen, and James Bay also appeared, to name a few!) Nadim attacked it with a passion, enthusiasm and energy that radiated off him in spades. It was a delight to watch him enjoying himself so and meant that we were all willingly swept along for the ride, too!
Not content with simply gracing us with his presence, Nadim also enlisted some friends to help him out. Will Barratt, who I hadn’t seen since his stint in Jersey Boys, joined Nadim for their song That’s How it Goes from Nadim’s first album, a Phantom of the Opera mash up that sent shivers up my spine, and a genius Michael Jackson medley. Due to the venue not being accessible to my four wheels, I had to miss the launch of Will’s album, Confessions of a Justified Sinner, I adore it so was thrilled to see him there, and am so excited to see him in Jesus Christ Superstar next month. Celinde Schoenmaker, currently the Christine to Nadim’s Raoul at Her Majesty’s, joined Nadim for a duet of the Jason Robert Brown song, I’d Give It All for You. For me having only seen her as Fantine and Christine, it was a joy to hear her tackle a different style of music, her smile lights up the room and her and Nadim’s voices complement each other’s wonderfully. I am still relatively new (perpetually late to the party, as ever, but Bridges of Madison County is a particular cherished favourite) so am grateful for any opportunity to discover his work I can get! Celinde also duets with Nadim on Sides, with the title track from Phantom. I think it’s an inspired arrangement, and I’m going to go there and say I actually prefer it to the original: it’s got a kind of Moulin Rouge El Tango De Roxanne vibe about it, it’s sultry and sexy and I commend them both for having the guts to take a song so well-known and give it a refreshing new lease of life.
Rob Houchen joined Nadim for a duet of The Proposal/The Night Was Alive from Titanic and also had a solo on an Elvis track. Similarly to Celinde, I have only seen Rob in Les Misérables thus far, so it was fun to see and hear more of him after so long. Rob has recently released his own EP, and I feel sure he is destined for more great success with his own music if his renditions here are anything to go by! Laura Tebbutt was a new face and voice for me, and I hope I can see more of her in future; their duet from Sides: Falling is again a brilliant blend of two amazing voices and spine tingling harmonies.
My favourite Aussie Demon Barber of Fleet Street who is currently chasing down Valjean over at the Queen’s Theatre, Jeremy Secomb has also lent his voice to Nadim’s album, with a beautiful song Nadim wrote for him called Here I Am. I am forever in awe of Jeremy’s voice and presence, and it was amazing to hear another side to him!
The camaraderie between Nadim and his colleagues was a delight from start to finish and gave the atmosphere a really special quality, a laugh was never far away and a smile was permanently plastered to my lips.
I said to myself in those few moments I said hello back in 2012, that this guy is going to get under my skin and be somebody I’m incredibly proud to support. Boy oh boy has he done that over the years, I can’t wait to see where his road continues to lead!
Nadim works with the awesome folk over at Auburn Jam Music. You can hear snippets of and buy both his albums here: http://www.auburnjam.co.uk/product/nadim-naaman
Or download on Itunes. Speaking of, Sides is currently #1 on the Vocal Chart over there… way to go, Nadim! 😀