I tackle a trio of Broadway cast recordings in the shape of Cole Porter’s The New Yorkers, Kiss Me, Kate! and Beetlejuice
“Most gentlemen can’t be profound”
As it only played a handful of performances, the release of Cole Porter’s The New Yorkers (2017 Encores! Cast Recording) is a welcome chance to revisit this rarely seen musical. The recording is certainly aided by the presence of such musical theatre stalwarts as Scarlett Strallen and Tam Mutu (scintillating together on ‘Where Have You Been?’), the revelation for me is jazz singer Cyrille Aimée, who delivers a slinkily devastating rendition of ‘Love for Sale’ that makes it feel like the song was written for her.
Aside from the songs written by Jimmy Durante (his comic stylings at their best on Act 1 closer ‘Wood’ delivered with panache by Kevin Chamberlin), the prevailing aesthetic is one of classic Cole Porter elegance, Rob Berman’s musical direction finding just the right level of sparkling verve to blow off any lingering cobwebs and infuse real life into the material. Ruth Williamson’s witty ‘The Physician’, Mylinda Hull’s just-as-funny ‘The Great Indoors’, Strallen leading the ecstatic finale ‘I Happen to Like New York’…the pleasures here abound.
Sticking with the glorious Cole Porter, and who wouldn’t!, this year has also seen the release of Kiss Me, Kate! (2019 Broadway Cast Recording). It’s a show that I have a little difficulty with, never having seen a production that managed to sufficiently square its period gender dynamics with (my) contemporary sensibilities. But there’s no denying a songbook that contains the likes of ‘Too Darn Hot’, ‘So In Love and ‘Always True To You In My Fashion’.
And when you have the likes of Kelli O’Hara and Will Chase singing them, you’re in the territory of dreamily good. Whether together on the oom-pah-pah of ‘Wunderbar’ or separately on their respective renditions of ‘So in Love’, they’re both exceptionally good and utterly listenable. Also great value for money are ‘B’ couple Stephanie Styles and Corbin Bleu, pulling focus brilliantly wherever they pop up.
And last but not least, even if Mr Porter isn’t involved here, we have Beetlejuice (Original Broadway Cast Recording). From its opening minutes, (“Holy crap! A ballad already?”), it is clear that there’s a properly anarchic spirit at play here and Eddie Perfect’s score, led by a highly charismatic Alex Brightman who clearly is having a ball as he repeatedly breaks through the fourth wall (if there is one when you’re listening…?)
‘The Whole “Being Dead” Thing is a genius opening number, prologue aside, and sets the tone for the Perfect’s pop-rock tunes, several of which feel like they have the potential to earworm their way into your brain (the refrain of ‘Fright of Their Lives is currently stuck in mine). Supported by vibrant work from Kerry Butler and Rob McClure and a cleverly sung performance from Sophia Anne Caruso as the Winona-waif Lydia, if Beetlejuice struggles to find a new home on Broadway then I’ll happily welcome it into the West End!
Encouraged by their Curtain Up nominations, I take a quick look at the Broadway cast recordings for Hadestown, Jagged Little Pill and Oklahoma!
“I want you to know, that I am happy for you”
I’m not quite sure why I haven’t got around to reviewing the original Broadway cast recording of Hadestown since I listen to it at least once a week, such is the enduring strength of Anaïs Mitchell’s glorious score. I loved the show so much at the National, that I’d already booked to go and see it again before I got home that evening, and getting to dive deep into this recording is about as close as I’ll get to seeing it again (I doubt it’ll return here any time soon although the West End is crying out for its inventiveness).
Those of us who loved the show in London are blessed that the Broadway transfer retained its key cast. So the intense vitality of Amber Gray, the easy swing of André De Shields, the indie-pop sweetness of Reeve Carney and Eva Noblezada and the gravelly hotness of Patrick Page remain intact. And those tunes! The plaintive cries of ‘Wait for Me’, the slinkiness of ‘When the Chips Are Down’, the incredible prescience of ‘Why We Build The Wall’, the sheer glee of ‘Way Down Hadestown’, it is a winner from start to finish for me. Continue reading “Broadway Album Reviews: Hadestown / Jagged Little Pill / Oklahoma!”
A re-release of Melissa Errico’s album Legrand Affair further deepens her exceptional relationship to Michel Legrand’s songbook
“The time will come when all the waiting’s done”
I can’t pretend to be anywhere near objective about the music of Michel Legrand, it just touches my soul in the most intimate, indescribable way, so naturally the news of his death at the beginning of the year was devastating. And it is apparent that he inspires such devotion from many others too, most notably US Tony nominee Melissa Errico.
John Barrowman release his festive album A Fabulous Christmas and like Christmas dinner, there’s bits I love (everything apart from the sprouts) and bits I really don’t (the sprouts)
“Well I’m all grown up now And still need help somehow”
A relatively late entry into the festive album market (Idina Menzel released back in October!), John Barrowman’s A Fabulous Christmasburst onto the scene last week, complete with a neck injury that jeopardised the opening nights of its accompanying tour. Intensive rehabilitation seems to have got him back on the road but how is the album? Can Barrowman convince me that spoken adlibs are ever a good thing on record…?
As it often the case with Barrowman as a performer, for me at least, there are moments of pure loveliness and others when it is all just a bit too much. When he turns down the power in his voice and allows its character to shine through, you understand why he is such a popular singer. The tender restraint of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, the gently swinging fun of ‘Happy Holidays’ with The Puppini Sisters, the hushed beauty of the medley of ‘Be Thou My Vision’ and ‘Away in a Manger’, these are seasonal classics in the making. Continue reading “Album Review: John Barrowman – A Fabulous Christmas”
Michael Ball and Alfie Boe get back together for Back Together, their third album as a duo, which I ultimately find hard to resist
“The more you refuse to hear my voice The louder I will sing”
First they were Together, then they were Together Again and now they’re Back Together – there’s no separating Michael Ball and Alfie Boe as their double act has become an extraordinary success, managing that all-too-rare-nowadays feat of actually selling albums.
And you can see why, especially in a spell-binding trio of musical theatre classics early on. The unexpected harmonies speckled throughout ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’, the delicate interplay in Fiddler’s ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ and the always rousing ‘Circle Of Life’ (with the assistance of Shaun Escoffrey) all imbue the familiar material with real interest, making the case for Ball & Boe as more than just your average crooners cranking out a new album. And the inclusion of a Pasek & Paul song is predictably de rigueur for a 2019 release, even if neither man quite has the suppleness of voice or diction to really get away with the energy of ‘The Greatest Show’. Continue reading “Album Review: Michael Ball & Alfie Boe – Back Together”
Crikey, how I loved Heather Headley’s Broadway My Way, one of the best showtunes albums of recent years
“I know that everything I need is in here”
I was unreasonably peeved at Heather Headley for a little while, taking her casting in the West End debut of The Bodyguard as a slight on UK talent, for which I was rewarded her not appearing when I saw the show! But on seeing this clip of her smashing ‘Memory’ out of the park, I realised I’d played myself in not trying to see the show again to witness her talent live.
The next best thing is her 2018 album Broadway My Way, which I’ve belatedly got round to listening to. And once again more fool me, as it is probably one of the best musical theatre albums I’ve had the privilege of hearing. A collection of songs both old and new, it is an absolute masterclass in reinterpreting material to make it so closely fit a voice as to suggest it was written just for it. Continue reading “Album Review: Heather Headley – Broadway My Way”
Luke Evans’ debut album At Last is full of emphatic pop covers and his powerful voice at full stretch, not always a winning combination
“No one can tell us we’re wrong”
Luke Evans’ debut album At Last is a collection of mainly pop covers that range across the ages, with a focus on songs best known for being sung by female artists. As a budding actor, Evans starred in musicals such as Avenue Q and Piaf but upon establishing himself as a Hollywood movie star, has somewhat turned his back on the world of musical theatre (to the point where many were surprised at the revelation he could sing in the remake of Beauty and the Beast). But we remember…and he can really sing.
Album opener ‘Love Is a Battlefield’ is drenched in orchestral and choral bombast which does eventually wear you down with its forceful determination. But Evans’ tendency to open out his voice to a powerful belt means that his interpretative skills as a singer tend to get left by the wayside, reduced to the opening and closing 30 seconds once the booster button has been released. As such, his version of Ewan McColl’s ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ opens, and closes, with a beautiful subtlety that is missed in much of the middle. Continue reading “Album Review: Luke Evans – At Last”
Capturing so much of effervescent fun of the show, the Original London Cast Recording of & Juliet should be on everyone’s Christmas list
“Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever ever feel Like you’re less than f**kin’ perfect
When it comes to jukebox musicals, cast recordings can be a little hit and miss, depending on how the albums thrive (or otherwise) divorced from their theatrical contexts. Fortunately with & Juliet, a show I absolutely adored, the result is definitely more hit than miss. Having seen the show, it is a fantastic counterpart to my memories and every time I listen to it, it spurs me to look at ticket availability and ask myself how many times is enough…
The vibrancy of the production translates surprisingly well onto disc. The raucous energy of ‘Blow’ is one giant party, you’ll never hear ‘It’s My Life’ the same way again and the mash-up of ‘Problem’ and ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ remains an absolute standout, anchored by Miriam Teak-Lee’s confident delivery and Jordan Luke Gage’s pop freshness. Teak-Lee really is superb throughout, power and passion invested in every song, treating Max Martin’s with the artistic integrity it thoroughly deserves. Continue reading “Album Review: & Juliet (Original London Cast Recording)”