From Coldplay to Claude Debussy, crossover soprano Justine Balmer’s debut album Simple Thing is a collection of songs that work well together
“Stick, or twist The choice is yours”
With an intriguing bio that takes her from musicals to cruise ships to shopping channels, contemporary crossover soprano Justine Balmer’s debut album Simple Thing is 5 years in the making. The mix of pop, opera and classical is a seductive one and though the track-listing might seem diverse at first glance – Aerosmith next to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Coldplay rubbing shoulders with Claude Debussy – such is the serene force of Balmer’s voice that she really does make them all feel like they belong together here.
There’s a pleasing sense of balance too, you’d be hard-pressed to tell which genre Balmer prefers. A tender rendition of ‘Fix You’ with fellow crossover artists Blake, is as lushly beautiful as Fauré’s ‘In Paradisum’, the lightness of Dvořák’s ‘Song to the Moon’ matched by the simple purity of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ – you might not think you need another cover of the Keane track but it positively shimmers under the gorgeous treatment here. Continue reading “Album Review: Justine Balmer – Simple Thing”
A pair of dreamy album reviews with Matthew Croke’s Only Dreaming & Anna O’Byrne’s Dream
“Moonlight and love songs Never out of date”
There’s only a few weeks left to catch Aladdin onstage in London so what better time to sample the debut album from Agrabah’s finest son. Matthew Croke’s Only Dreaming was released earlier this year and serves as an excellent showcase for his smoothly appealing voice. He’s a Disney leading man through and through and whether paying tribute to his current home in the sweetly lovely ‘Proud of Your Boy’, or urging us to ‘Go The Distance’ with Hercules, it’s hard to resist him.
The emphasis in this collection is mainly on classic musicals, so we get ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, ‘Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story (though I’m not the biggest fan of the arrangement used here) and a gorgeous ‘Beautiful City’ from Godspell. There’s a nod to more modern musical theatre too, in the form of powerful versions of ‘Fight the Dragons’ from Andrew Lippa’s Big Fish and ‘This Is Not Over Yet’ from Jason Robert Brown’s Parade. Top of the pops for me though is the stirring rendition of The Wiz’s ‘Home’ which more than justifies the whole album. Continue reading “Dreamy Album Reviews: Matthew Croke – Only Dreaming & Anna O’Byrne – Dream”
Lots of fun at Leicester Square Theatre for Ramin Karimloo’s intimate concert with Seth Rudetsky and a whole load of special guests
“I knew where I needed to be”
The Broadway @ The Leicester Square brand is one which surfaces infrequently but always pays rich rewards when it does. Having attracted Patti LuPone, then Audra McDonald and John Barrowman into the intimate surroundings of an informal chat and sing-song arrangement with Seth Rudetsky, it is now Ramin Karimloo’s turn to deliver such a boutique concert.
The particular joy of these concerts is their slightly chaotic nature, the way in which no-one seems entirely sure what is going to happen, least of Karimloo and Rudetsky themselves. Tonight we all recorded a rendition of Happy Birthday for Jenna Russell and got an impromptu duet on ‘Confrontation’ with Jeremy Secomb who was dragged out of the audience – who knows what the next two shows will bring.
And these are just the bonuses on top of a programme which dips in and out of Karimloo’s impressive career to date. Anecdotes about the awesome inspiration Colm Wilkinson provided sit alongside a haunting rendition of ‘Music of the Night’; memories of The Pirates of Penzance segue into a gloriously ripe ‘The Pirate King’; his recent forays into Evita represented by ‘High Flying Adored’.
Two new music releases – Renée Fleming tackles Broadway classics in style, and The Quentin Dentin Show releases its cast recording
“Life is what you want it to be”
No matter what you think of Renée Fleming, you can’t accuse her of resting on her laurels. At this point in her career, she could well be taking the easy route but this decade alone has seen her tackle Broadway (most recently receiving a Tony nomination for Carousel) for the first time and release an album that featured interpretations of three Björk songs. Her newest release cleaves closer to musical theatre though, and Broadwayis available now from Decca Classics. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Renée Fleming – Broadway & The Quentin Dentin Show”
2 quickies from a flying visit up north to Manchester to Dusty the Musical at the Lowry and Aspects of Love at the Hope Mill Theatre
“Left alone with just a memory”
Does the world really need another Dusty Springfield musical? I avoided the car crash at the Charing Cross a few years back, and wish I had avoided Son of a Preacher Man last year. But still they come and now we have Dusty the Musical which at least boasts a better pedigree than most, with Jonathan Harvey writing, Maria Friedman directing and Katherine Kingsley starring.
And with that level of quality, particularly from the mega-wattage of Kingsley’s titanic performance, it certainly emerges as the best of the bunch, relatively speaking. It is far from a great show though, its book weighed down with the tension between meticulously researched facts and figures and the greater freedom that comes from invented characters who allow story to flow. If it is to make it into the West End, more tinkering needed and Kingsley locked down. Continue reading “Review: Dusty, Lowry / Aspects of Love, Hope Mill”
I turn my attention to the latest set of Broadway cast recordings with Frozen, Prince of Broadway and Mean Girls
My cynicism about the quick turnaround of megahit film Frozeninto a would-be megahit musical lasted for about 10 seconds as I popped on their cast recording. I mean, I loved the film and its songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and so who was I kidding?!
And it fulfils all of my Disney princess dreams. Caissie Levy (Elsa) and Patti Murin (Anna) lead the cast in fine full-voiced form, new songs from the Lopezes fit in well to the score though it does take a hot minute to get used to them. And the orchestral arrangement lends a note of excitement to the songs you know so well already.
Levy’s ‘Let It Go’ naturally takes the spotlight as the Act 1 closer (reprised to close the show as well) but Murin’s rendition of ‘Love Is An Open Door’ with John Riddle’s Hans gets my vote for its sheer warmth and joie de vivre. Of the new songs, Elsa’s ‘Dangerous to Dream’ probably ranks as my favourite. Definitely keen to see this once it hits the West End. Continue reading “Album reviews: Frozen / Prince of Broadway / Mean Girls”
Something of an undersung talent in this country (all his top gigs have taken place in Paris, or Kilworth), Dan Burton is nevertheless leading man material, and his debut album Broadway Melodies is proof thereof. Short and sweet at ten concise tracks, Burton swoons and slides effortlessly through the Great American Songbook.
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.
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.