Sebastien Izambard, Carlos Marin, David Miller and Urs Buhler are Il Divo. | Photo by Jonathan Brady— WPA Pool/Getty Images
Il Divo; Lea Salonga, ‘The Greatest Songs of Broadway,’ 8 p.m. April 18, Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont. $49.50-$123. Visit ticketmaster.com
Updated: April 18, 2014 12:09PM
The hunky members of Il Divo are doing something pretty risky on their latest tour. Rather than performing the songs that made them platinum-selling recording artists, they are turning all their attention to their latest album, the Broadway-themed “A Musical Affair.”
Fans of the group are probably gasping in horror: No “Adagio”? No “Time to Say Goodbye”? And, for heaven’s sake, no “Unbreak My Heart”?
“We love ‘Unbreak My Heart,’ “ says Spaniard Carlos Marin, a member of the international quartet. “It was, of course, the song which started Il Divo for us all. After much debate, we decided to rest the song on this tour, given it’s our fourth world tour and keeping with the musical-theater theme for all the repertoire.”
“There is a risk, but somehow I think people are connecting because the new material is such a well-known repertoire,” fellow Divo Sebastien Izambard says. “We’re a band with a brand-new album, and we’re performing songs that have been really popular for years.”
Tony winner Lea Salonga shares the stage with the guys; Izambard jokingly calls the pairing “Four divos and a diva.”
Plus, “she helps break up some of the testosterone,” Marin says. “Lea is incredibly sexy and funny, and we all have a great laugh together.”
So far, they report, audiences have responded positively to the production, which wasn’t necessarily a given.
“Americans are more keen on Broadway than the rest of the world,” says Izambard, who was born in France. “Originally when we did this album, it was orientated to an American audience, but we also had to be careful because the U.S. are the kings of singing theater songs.”
Rather than tailor their operatic, multilingual style to the music, the group meets the material somewhere in the middle. The production is full of the epic emotional flourishes that are one of Il Divo’s trademarks. The soaring highs found in such theater classics as “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Some Enchanted Evening” are not that far from the guys’ standard repertoire.
“The songs were amazing,” Izambard says. “You look at the lyrics to something like ‘If Ever I Would Leave You,’ and it’s absolutely incredible. They took such care with the lyrics and the melodies. They are like pieces of jewelry. They are timeless, because people listen to them year after year.”
Other tunes, such as the more contemporary “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Love Changes Everything,” fit more snugly in the Il Divo wheelhouse. And, Izambard confides, he slips into the set list one non-Broadway song, “Pour Que Tu M’aimes Encore.”
The tour and album come at an interesting time for Il Divo. The group was launched 10 years ago by Simon Cowell, who recruited the four singers in the group: American David Miller and Urs Buhler from Switzerland round out the lineup. Except for Izambard, the members are classically trained. The concept was essentially a boy band for pop-opera fanatics, with the photogenic members sporting beautifully crafted suits and singing melodramatic songs that tug at the heartstrings.
The formula made them wildly successful around the globe, with platinum albums, major tours and, in the United States, PBS specials. But, Izambard says, the group has never achieved the critical respect it deserves.
“Radio doesn’t know where to play us,” he says. “We’re not a cool band. We don’t sing like Miley Cyrus. I don’t think people give us credit because of how we got together.”
The four members produce their stage shows themselves, which Izambard takes pride in. So much time together can be demanding on the group, particularly because of how Il Divo formed. Members weren’t particularly chummy initially.
“It was really hard to get along in the beginning,” Izambard admits. “We didn’t speak English well. We had completely different cultures. It’s like we had been in an arranged marriage and promised to love each other for 10 years. It’s hard enough to make marriage work with someone you’ve chosen.”
Still, the group has figured out how to carry on.
“I think we get on better now than we ever did,” Marin says. “We really are like brothers and have learned when to enjoy each other’s company and when to give each other some privacy. Seb, David and Urs are the only other people who know how this journey has felt, and [we] have been there supporting each other every step of the way.”
“We have lots of fun on stage,” he says. “With one look, we can understand each other. It’s like we have our own language. But we know when we have down time, we like to go our separate ways. It’s really healthy and important to make sure we have time away from each other.”
Don’t expect that time apart to extend indefinitely any time soon, Izambard assures.
“We four are very lucky in what we do,” he says. “It’s a lot of hard work, and we always want to make sure we feel at the top of our game.”