Review: John Barrowman with Seth Rudetsky, Leicester Square Theatre

This weekend only, John Barrowman and Seth Rudetsky deliver conversation and concert realness at the Leicester Square Theatre in London

“Passionate as hell 
But always in control”

I hadn’t originally intended to go and see John Barrowman in this intimate concert setting but my Aunty Jean is a big fan and so decided to make a day trip out of it, and I got to go along for the ride. This micro-run of three performances fell under the aegis of Seth Rudetsky’s intermittent Broadway @ Leicester Square Theatre series, mixing performance with conversation to create a unique and relaxed vibe.

Barrowman’s force of personality means the anecdotes flow out of him with barely any prompting from the wonderfully acerbic Rudetsky but with such a storied career, he’s certainly earned the right to tell them. Continue reading “Review: John Barrowman with Seth Rudetsky, Leicester Square Theatre”

How to solve a problem like a compilation – my alternative Unmasked

Andrew Lloyd Webber, Unmasled

I make my own suggestions about interpretations of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs that could have been included on his new compilation album Unmasked

“They must have excitement, and so must I”

In a world of Spotify and iTunes and other online music services, compilation albums ought to have died a death. But the enduring success of the Now That’s What I Call Music series puts the lie to that, showing that while the idea of curating your own content is tempting, many of us prefer to let someone else do it for us.

So Andrew Lloyd Webber’s decision to release new anthology Unmasked is a canny one in that respect (read my review here), tapping into the desire to have a nicely pleasant set of musical theatre tunes to pop on in the car. And as with any compilation, it’s as much about what hasn’t been included as what has, that stands out. Continue reading “How to solve a problem like a compilation – my alternative Unmasked”

Album Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection

Andrew Lloyd Webber, Unmasled

Andrew Lloyd Webber marks his 70th birthday with a new musical anthology –  Unmasked: The Platinum Collection – taking in shows new and old with some surprises along the way (Beyoncé, Lana del Rey, Duncan from Blue )

“Oh what a circus, oh what a show”

Upon reaching 70 this year, Andrew Lloyd Webber is clearly in a reflective mood and hot on the heels of his autobiography Unmasked released last week, comes this new compilation album Unmasked: The Platinum Collection. Available physically as a 2CD or 4CD version (the latter with a 40 page book of liner notes and tributes), this collection looks back on a career spanning nearly 50 years and features some new twists on the material as well as reminding us of the old favourites.

Over the four discs, 17 of Lloyd Webber’s shows are represented here (Jesus Christ Superstar tops the list with 8 tracks, Evita and Phantom just behind), alongside assorted one-off songs (such as ‘Amigos Para Siempre’ from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Gary Barlow co-write ‘Sing’ from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee). But for ALW fans it will be the unreleased stuff that makes the mouth water – five new orchestral suites and a smattering of new recordings featuring the likes of Lana del Rey (a winsome ‘You Must Love Me’ and Gregory Porter (a spirited ‘Light At The End Of The Tunnel’. Continue reading “Album Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection”

Andrew Lloyd Webber celebrates 70 years with ‘Unmasked: The Platinum Collection’

In celebration of his 70th birthday this March, new compilation ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: THE PLATINUM COLLECTION will be available March 16th through UMC / Polydor.  

The collection is personally curated and overseen by Lloyd Webber to include classics from his earliest work starting with 1968’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat through his most recent School of Rock. 

Newly recorded songs from superstar artists Nicole Scherzinger (“Memory”, Cats), Gregory Porter (“Light at the End of the Tunnel”, Starlight Express) and Lana Del Rey (“You Must Love Me”, Evita) add to the collection of his cherished works from the past five decades. 

The set also contains recordings by world-class performers such as Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, Michael Ball, and released for the first time, Beyonce singing “Learn To Be Lonely” from the 2005 Academy Awards with Lloyd Webber accompanying on piano. 

UNMASKED: THE PLATINUM COLLECTION is available as 2 CD and 4 CD editions. The 4-disc version contains an exclusive 40-page book with a personally penned introduction from Lloyd Webber and more in-depth notes on each track, written by respected theatre critic and Lloyd Webber biographer Michael Coveney, together with personally written tributes from Barbara Streisand and Glenn Close among others. 

Pre-order 2 CD Edition

Pre-order 4 CD Edition

Continue reading “Andrew Lloyd Webber celebrates 70 years with ‘Unmasked: The Platinum Collection’”

Album Review: Leading Ladies – Songs From The Stage

“Lock the door and stop complaining
Gather ’round and listen well”

Between them, Amber Riley, Beverley Knight and Cassidy Janson have racked up Olivier Awards and accolades aplenty and their mutual respect has led to them joining forces to create musical supergroup Leading Ladies. And working with producers Brian Rawling and Paul Meehan through East West Records (Warner), their debut album Songs From The Stage is about to be released.
 
Across the 14 tracks of the collection, there’s a variety of approaches as they tackle songs from a wide range of musicals. Each singer gets a couple of solo numbers, and they all chip in with backing vocals on some of those, but the highlights come when the trio sing together. And none more so than on an utterly transcendent version of Carole King’s ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ whose close harmonies are goosebump-inducingly extraordinary, the marriage of their voices a perfect alchemy.

Interpretations of Rent’s ‘Seasons of Love’ and Once’s ‘Falling Slowly’ also capture a similar sort of spine-tingling feel, the vocal arrangements by Beverley Knight emphasising a restrained but no-less-emotional delivery, recognising that deep feeling can be just as effective as fireworks even from such powerhouse singers. Even in old stalwart ‘Memory’ from Cats, there’s a purity to the performance that is a refreshing counterpoint to the contemporary vogue for riffing.  

There’s also fun to be had here too, in more light-hearted numbers like the energetic ‘Raise The Roof’ from Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party and the head-over-heels giddiness of Hamilton’s’Helpless’ (with the assistance of Sky Adams) – the delivery of “I’m just sayin’, if you really loved me, you would share him” is pretty much worth the price of the album alone. And those shimmering harmonies are used to great effect in a sparkling version of Dreamgirls’ ‘One Night Only’.

And though each performer revisits the shows that have made their reputations – Janson and Beautiful, Knight and Memphis – there’s arguably more interest in the other songs they pick. Janson’s breakneck race though Funny Girl’s ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’ is genuinely thrilling and the album’s closer, Riley’s gentle ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ (from Meet Me in St. Louis), showcases just how beautiful her voice is.

A tour-de-force from three remarkable singers then but most excitingly, the perfect example of something being greater than the sum of its parts, how authentic collaboration can reap such rich rewards. Just fantastic.

 

Album Review: Helen Power – Enraptured

“There is joy in the air
So be gone with dull care”
 
What to do to make your album stand out in a crowded marketplace of musical theatre-related albums? Get Auburn Jam’s Joe Davison in to do your arrangements, that’s what. A glimpse at the tracklisting of Helen Power’s new album Enraptured may not initially suggest a great adventurousness but on first listen, its playful and subtly daring nature soon become apparent.
 
A relaxed take on Porgy & Bess’ Summertime is a strong opener, full of bold musicality and Power’s confident soprano, but it’s the next of couple of tracks that set out the vision here. A Latin-inflected ‘The Sound Of Music’ has no right to be effective but as Davison introduces silky bossanova rhythms and elastic double-bass lines, it’s impossible to resist its easygoing charm. And if less radical, his Bond-esque re-arrangement of the title track from The Phantom Of The Opera is no less exciting, its duelling brass section and violins building to a breathless climax that thrills just as much as Power’s soaring top E.

Continue reading “Album Review: Helen Power – Enraptured”

Album Review: Michael Ball and Alfie Boe – Together Again

“I hang suspended
Until I know
There’s a chance that you care”

 

It is no secret that I am no great fan of a booming tenor and so it was little surprise that Michael Ball and Alfie Boe’s album Together was not really my cup of tea. But it was however what many other people wanted and following its success and reaching number 1 in the charts, the pair have collaborated again to produce the imaginatively titled Together Again. And in the spirit of open-mindedness, plus the acknowledgement that there’s a more adventurous tracklisting, I steeled myself to listen.

I have to hold up my hands and say I was pleasantly surprised by more than a few of the songs here. The first two-thirds of ‘The Rose’ are genuinely spine-tinglingly lovely and even when the bombast kicks in for the finale, it stills maintains a heartfelt sincerity. A stroll through ‘White Christmas’ is marvellously restrained and all the more effective for it. Even the big band swing through ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ has a gentleness to it that allows both men to demonstrate their performative range.

Review: Sunset Boulevard Curve, Leicester

“Smile a rented smile, fill someone’s glass
Kiss someone’s wife, kiss someone’s ass”

Ria Jones’ extraordinary history with Sunset Boulevard might well be entitled The Norma Conquests – from originally workshopping the role of Norma Desmond for Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Don Black and Christopher Hampton (book and lyrics) in 1991 to her headline-grabbing stint as Glenn Close’s understudy in last year’s ENO staged concert version of the show to finally getting to play the leading role in her own right on this UK tour, premiering at Leicester’s Curve, some 26 years later.
And was it worth the wait? Jones certainly is making the most of her well-deserved moment, offering a different skillset for her markedly different interpretation. Jones is undoubtedly the better singer, the lushness of her voice soaring effortlessly to the impassioned heights of the score. And she’s a different kind of actress, offering a brasher, more manic kind of energy to this former movie star caught up in a fantasy world when a young screenwriter (Danny Mac) accidentally offers hope to her faded career. 
As for the rest of the production though, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. Perhaps it is having seen the show so recently, that itch has been well and truly scratched for me and it doesn’t necessarily feel so strong a piece of theatre that will tempt people back which is what a classic musical needs to succeed on the road. So I wonder how the show will fare on its extensive tour without a name like Close to draw people (you sense producers releasing pics of Mac in his trunks recognises the work already underway).
There’s good work in the company from the likes of Molly Lynch as script editor Betty and long-time Lloyd Webber collaborator Adam Pearce as the loyal Max. And Nikolai Foster’s production works hard to look (Colin Richmond’s design) and sound (Adrian Kirk’s musical direction) a cut above your average touring musical. The main issue for me lies in a score overly reliant on pastiche and a book that has never heard of the term subtlety. I’m glad I’ve seen Sunset Boulevard, and in particular Ria Jones, but it’s hard not shake the feeling that I don’t think I want to see it again anytime soon.
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Manuel Harlan
Booking until 30th September then touring to…
PLAYHOUSE THEATRE, Edinburgh – 03 OCTOBER – 07 OCTOBER 2017
THEATRE ROYAL, Newcastle – 09 OCTOBER – 14 OCTOBER 2017
SWANSEA GRAND THEATRE – 16 OCTOBER – 21 OCTOBER 2017
PALACE THEATRE, Manchester – 23 OCTOBER – 04 NOVEMBER 2017
HIS MAJESTY’s THEATRE, Aberdeen – 06 NOVEMBER – 11 NOVEMBER 2017
HIPPODROME, Birmingham – 13 NOVEMBER – 18 NOVEMBER 2017
BORD GAIS ENERGY THEATRE, Dublin – 20 NOVEMBER – 25 NOVEMBER 2017
MILTON KEYNES THEATRE – 28 NOVEMBER – 02 DECEMBER 2017
HIPPODROME, Bristol – 09 JANUARY – 13 JANUARY 2018
MAYFLOWER THEATRE, Southampton – 16 JANUARY – 20 JANUARY 2018
NEW VICTORIA THEATRE, Woking – 22 JANUARY – 27 JANUARY 2018
CLIFFS PAVILLION, Southend – 29 JANUARY – 03 FEBURARY 2018
ALHAMBRA THEATRE, Bradford – 05 FEBRUARY – 10 FEBRUARY 2018
EMPIRE THEATRE, Liverpool – 19 FEBRUARY – 24 FEBRUARY 2018
WALES MILLENNIUM CENTRE, Cardiff – 26 FEBRUARY – 03 MARCH 2018
REGENT THEATRE, Ipswich – 5 MARCH – 10 MARCH 2018
THEATRE ROYAL, Plymouth – 12 MARCH – 17 MARCH 2018
NEW THEATRE, Wimbledon – 09 APRIL – 14 APRIL 2018
MARLOWE THEATRE, Canterbury – 16 APRIL – 21 APRIL 2018
LYCEUM THEATRE, Sheffield – 23 APRIL – 28 APRIL 2018