“If only I were famous from the telly”
Across its two discs and twenty-three tracks, there’s an awful lot of whimsy to Alexander S Bermange’s latest compilation album Wit and Whimsy and not quite enough wit to sustain it. Bermange is a composer who has had as much success writing comic songs for radio as he has in straight-up musical theatre (the two shows of his that I’ve seen – The Route to Happiness and Thirteen Days – were both part of festivals).
That said, he has an impressive contacts list as evidenced by the range of people who have joined in on the action here – Laura Pitt-Pulford, Tracie Bennett, David Bedella, Cassidy Janson, Emma Williams, even Christopher Biggins. And with a guest list of this quality, naturally there are moments that shine here.
A good deal of the songs here deal with the life of the performer and so there’s a wry charm in hearing the likes of Bedella’s ‘The Opening Number’, Williams’ faux-tone-deafness in ‘I Love To Sing’, and Wicked’s Oliver Savile complaining about being ‘Stuck in the Ensemble’. I particularly enjoyed Lauren Samuels’ terrible ‘Audition’ and Amy Lennox’s frustrated ‘Guest Spot’, both performers really building a sense of character through their travails.
Away from the world of theatre, the collection of quirky characters that appear are a little scattershot and lack a real sense of cohesion as part of this album. From Bennett’s ‘Moaning About Phoning’ to Phil Daniels’ ‘A Trainspotter’s Tale’, Bermange’s skill with a patter song is undoubted, but as we delve into Simon Bailey telling us ‘I Think I Might Be Jesus’ and Lucy May Barker’s ill-judged ‘He Left Me For My Granny’, it’s just all a bit too random.
A handful of these songs were recorded by other people on Bermange’s earlier compilation Weird and Wonderful (and one from Act One too) which strikes me as part of the problem here. Collecting songs from such a prolific songbook and putting them on a double-album isn’t enough, they need to be curated too, edited down so that the album is a refinement of the composer’s body of work rather than an overstuffed grab-bag.