“What do you see, you people gazing at me, you see a doll on a music box”
Annalene Beechey is one of those performers whom I have seen a fair bit but never actually on the stage in a show, instead she has been a regular on the cabaret scene, supporting fellow ‘Christine’ Rebecca Caine or showcasing new musical theatre writing in theatres and on boats. So I thought I’d give her album Close Your Eyes a spin to see how it stacked up and it came up good!
What works so well for me is her song selection, she steers clear from too much rehashing of familiar standards and instead chooses to highlight the work of the composers with whom she has built up a connection whether personally or just through their music and it shows. From the newbies like Grant Olding – the gorgeous ‘Hannah’s Dream’ and Scott Alan – the fragile beauty of ‘Always/Goodnight’ to the more seasoned hands of Stephens Sondheim and Schwartz –an Into the Woods medley and ‘Lion Tamer’ from The Magic Show respectively, Beechey’s love of the genre shines through with insightful interpretations that dig deep into these songs and what they mean to her.
Holding it all together is Beechey’s crystalline soprano: lyrically clear as a bell throughout and able to switch from being as delicate as gossamer threads to showing a surprising depth and power, often in the same song. And she is supported by some superbly timeless arrangements, even from first listen this sounds like an album that will not date, restrained piano and strings complementing the lush vocals. There’s nice duetting with Rebecca Lock and husband Simon Greiff, but the best is a mellow take on Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ with Julian Ovenden, gently beautiful and never oversung which is always a danger with this song.
Close Your Eyes is a great album, some excellent song choices from start to finish – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s ‘Doll On A Music Box’ has never sounded more poignant, there’s a great spin on William Finn’s ‘Sailing’ and even some Stiles + Drewe for good measure – and some truly classy arrangements to elevate this from your regular musical theatre album. If you’re not familiar with some of the names mentioned here, this is a great starting point to discover them; if you’re up on your musical theatre composers, then you haven’t heard them sung like this. Recommended.