Album Review: Rags – The Musical: Original London Cast Recording

The Original London Cast Recording for Rags – The Musical is released by Ghostlight Records, the first to capture the many changes to the show

“What if we never meet again?”

Sometimes a musical just doesn’t grab you, and so it was for me with Rags The Musical. The show received its UK premiere at the Northern powerhouse that is the Hope Mill Theatre in February 2019 and transferred to the Park Theatre in London at the beginning of 2020 and despite its excellent notices, I just didn’t fancy it. The universe clearly wants me to hear it one way or another though, as Ghostlight Records are now releasing an official London cast recording, the first for this show since 1991.

I think my ambivalence might have stemmed from a lack of love for Fiddler on the Roof (I know…). And Rags was initially conceived in 1986 as a sequel of sorts by book-writer Joseph Stein, as he explores the experience of a group of Jewish immigrants as they arrive in the US. Over the years though, David Thompson has considerably revised it and Stephen Schwartz’s lyrics and Charles Strouse’s music have also been substantially tinkered with. Musicals are ever a work in progress but such overhauling doesn’t always inspire the greatest confidence – credit then to director Bronagh Lagan and musical director Joe Bunker for refining this material in such a stylish manner. Continue reading “Album Review: Rags – The Musical: Original London Cast Recording”

Album Review: The Prince of Egypt (Original Cast Recording)

There’s two songs I could listen to for ages on the Original Cast Recording of The Prince of Egypt but I could easily leave the rest

“No power on earth can change that, brother”

There was a moment in the last couple of days as I listened to ‘Make It Right’ for the umpteenth time that I wondered whether I’d been a bit harsh to The Prince of Egypt when it opened in late February. I’d made the note ‘lovely duet’ at the time and on record, the sweet/strong combination of Liam Tamne and Luke Brady’s voices is an absolute winner as their fraternal connection is tested over soaring contrapuntal melodies and an orchestral backing that flows as effortlessly as the Red Sea

So too, the show’s most famous song (so much so that the publicity campaign basically centred on it) ‘When You Believe’ has a choral majesty that is undeniable. Alexia Khadime and Christine Allado lead the company with real style – the interplay of their voices in the middle chorus is spine-tingingly lovely – and the incorporation of the Hebrew-sung bridge (led by Mia Lakha) is a rare graceful moment of geo-specificity that works. Continue reading “Album Review: The Prince of Egypt (Original Cast Recording)”

Album Review: #ZoologicalSociety

New musical #ZoologicalSociety, written by Vikki Stone and Kate Mulgrew, gets a well-timed concept album release

“You’ve been here for one day mate, I’ve been here for years”

With a sense of impeccable timing, new musical #ZoologicalSociety launches with a concept album. The plan was to accompany the digital release with a live concert performance at BEAM 2020, the UK’s leading showcase of new British musical theatre but whilst that obviously isn’t happening, the album is now available for our delectation, thanks to Joe and Nikki Davison at Auburn Jam Music who produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the music.

The first of a series of entirely original musical commissions from Northampton’s Royal & Derngate, Vikki Stone and Katie Mulgrew’s #ZoologicalSociety takes its simple concept – animals going through the same societal pressures as humans – and fashions a rather winning musical comedy out of it. Continue reading “Album Review: #ZoologicalSociety”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2019 winners

Controversial perhaps, but I disagree with all three of these decisions! You can’t trust the public to vote for anything these days… congratulations to all the winners though

Best UK Cast Recording
& Juliet – Original London Cast Recording
Company – 2018 London Cast Recording
Follies – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording
WINNER – Heathers (Original West End Cast Recording)
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – 2019 Original London Cast
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical Original Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Beetlejuice (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Hadestown (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Jagged Little Pill (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
WINNER – Moulin Rouge (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Oklahoma! (2019 Broadway Cast Recording)
Tootsie (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Best Solo Album
Cassidy Janson – Cassidy
Ramin Karimloo – From Now On
WINNER – John Owen-Jones –Spotlight
Ben Platt – Sing To Me Instead
Jon Robyns – Musical Directions
Hayden Tee – Face to Face

Broadway Album Reviews: The New Yorkers / Kiss Me, Kate! / Beetlejuice

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.

Photo © Caitlin Ochs

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’.

Photo © Joan Marcus

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…?)

Photo © Matthew Murphy

‘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!

Broadway Album Reviews: Hadestown / Jagged Little Pill / Oklahoma!

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!”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2019 nominees

You can now vote for the Best London Cast Recording, Best Broadway Cast Recording and Best Solo Album here. Then fill in your details and click Vote and one lucky voter will win £100 worth of Theatre Tokens!

Best UK Cast Recording
& Juliet – Original London Cast Recording
Company – 2018 London Cast Recording
Follies – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording
Heathers (Original West End Cast Recording)
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – 2019 Original London Cast
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical Original Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Beetlejuice (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Hadestown (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Jagged Little Pill (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Moulin Rouge (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Oklahoma! (2019 Broadway Cast Recording)
Tootsie (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Best Solo Album
Cassidy Janson – Cassidy
Ramin Karimloo – From Now On
John Owen-Jones –Spotlight
Ben Platt – Sing To Me Instead
Jon Robyns – Musical Directions
Hayden Tee – Face to Face

Album Review: & Juliet (Original London Cast Recording)

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)”

Album Review: Tina – The Tina Turner Musical Original Cast Recording

The Original Cast Recording of Tina – The Tina Turner Musical captures much of what makes the show work so well, not least Adrienne Warren’s sensational lead performance

“Hot whispers in the night
I’m captured by your spell”

As Tina – The Tina Turner Musical opens on Broadway, what better time to take a look at the Original Cast Recording, which is now available worldwide – to stream, download or order the CD, then visit Ghostlight Records here. The show opened in the West End last year and while I may not have loved the book unconditionally, there is no denying the 24 carat gold quality of the score with its selection from Turner’s frankly amazing back catalogue which spans rock’n’roll to rhythm’n’blues to pop to straight up soul.

Rather cannily, the Broadway production has retained the lead from the West End production as Adrienne Warren deservedly took the lion’s share of the plaudits. And it is her personality, allied to that rip-roaring voice, that shines through this cast recording, elevating it from the mere karaoke of way too many other jukebox show cast recordings. Listen to the passion of the moan that opens ‘A Fool in Love’, the hunger of ‘Better Be Good to Me’, the aching tenderness of ‘I Don’t Wanna Fight’ – this is a star-making performance. Continue reading “Album Review: Tina – The Tina Turner Musical Original Cast Recording”