Album Review: Heather Headley – Broadway My Way

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”

Album Review: Emma Lindars – As We Grow Older

West End chanteuse Emma Lindars channels some seriously impressive vocal power on album As We Grow Older

“You were the one who said forever from the start”

Anyone who was in Made in Dagenham scores points with me, so spotting that Emma Lindars had released an album earlier this year – As We Grow Older – which features a mixture of musical theatre and contemporary pop. Lindars’ resume takes in all sorts of West End credits over the last decade or so, but I do remember being particularly impressed with her in cabaret act The IDolls

And that impassioned power I remember is on fine display throughout,. whether a gorgeous take on ‘With Every Breath I Take’ from City of Angels, or Céline-esque power ballads ‘Before I Fall’ and ‘As We Grow Older’. There’s a beautiful pairing with Alice Fearn on ‘When You Believe’ from The Prince of Egypt (though as ever, it’s the delicate interplay of that middle chorus rather than the epic finale that really captures the heart). Continue reading “Album Review: Emma Lindars – As We Grow Older”

Album reviews: Working / Bat out of Hell / 42nd Street

A trio of West End cast recordings (well, one’s off-West-End…) show that it is sometimes hard to recapture the stage magic 

© Robert Workman

Starting off with the best of this bunch, the Southwark Playhouse’s production of Working might not have seemed like the obvious choice for a cast recording but maybe the lure of a couple of new Lin-Manuel Miranda tracks was a real sweetener.

Truth is, it is the quality of the cast’s performances that make this a fantastic addition to the list of albums you need to hear. From Siubhan Harrison’s impassioned ‘Millwork’ to Dean Chisnall’s gleeful ‘Brother Trucker’, and the highly charismatic Liam Tamne nails both of Miranda’s contributions – the wilful ‘Delivery’ and a corking duet (with Harrison) on ‘A Very Good Day’.

Experience pays though, as Gillian Bevan and Peter Polycarpou take the honours with some scintillating work. The latter’s ‘Joe’ is beautifully judged, as is the former’s ‘Nobody Tells Me How’, both demonstrating the uncertainty that can come at the end of a long career, when retirement doesn’t necessarily hold the joyful promise it once did. Highly recommended.  Continue reading “Album reviews: Working / Bat out of Hell / 42nd Street”

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”

Review: Pippin, Southwark Playhouse

“We’ve had our fill of grey skies”

I was snowed out of my original trip to Pippin at Southwark Playhouse and it has taken me more than a little while to be able to fit it back into my schedule. But although the production has had some excellent word of mouth, it wasn’t the one for me, unable to shake my feeling that this is a musical of which I’m just not very fond.

Originating at the Hope Mill Theatre last year, Jonathan O’Boyle’s lively production bears the hallmarks of much of the strong work from this new northern mini-powerhouse. An enthusiastic young cast (led here by Jonathan Carlton and Genevieve Nicole), and a rough and ready but charismatic design (Maeve Black) that uses the space well. Continue reading “Review: Pippin, Southwark Playhouse”

Album Review: Shona White – I’ll Bring You A Song (2011)

“It is nothing to do with the wine

Or the music that’s flooding my mind”

Shona White is a rather under-rated (for my money at least) Scottish actress and singer perhaps most famous for stints in Mamma Mia which were 12 years apart, but whose musical theatre credits stretch far and wide. Her 2011 album I’ll Bring You A Song, produced by Richard Beadle reflects the breadth of her career and it is this variety which is both its strength and its slight weakness.
 
I have to admit to finding it hard to get too excited about tracks like ‘To Sir With Love’ and Tell Me On A Sunday’s ‘Take That Look Off Your Face’. They’re sung perfectly competently but familiarity breeds a certain measure of contempt. Where this type of song choice succeeds is where the interpretation dares to be different, the sharp emotion of Chess‘ ‘Nobody’s Side’ a case in point here, so too the slowed down take on ‘As Long As You’re Mine’ from Wicked with the ever-melodious Daniel Boys.

Continue reading “Album Review: Shona White – I’ll Bring You A Song (2011)”

Album Review: Betty Buckley – Story Songs

“Don’t give up
I know you can make it good”

The indefatigable Betty Buckley shows no sign of slowing down – recently appearing in the M Night Shyamalan film Split and releasing Story Songs, which I think is her 18th solo album. It’s a double album: the first disc, recorded live at the Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California; the taped at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York. And across the two, she serves a sterling reminder of how sublime an art cabaret can be.

From a career that stretches over a number of decades, one of the real thrills of Story Songs is just how diverse the song selection is, dipping into a wide range of popular music (Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, even Radiohead) as well as musical theatre from classic (Rodgers and Hammerstein) to contemporary (a trio of Jason Robert Brown numbers). And the combination is entirely seductive from start to glorious finish. Continue reading “Album Review: Betty Buckley – Story Songs”

Album Review: Kristin Chenoweth – Coming Home (2014)

“A most unusual coloring book”

Kristin Chenoweth has been delighting audiences across musical theatre, television shows and concert tours for many years now and so one can forgive her the indulgence of a live album. Coming Home was recorded in her hometown of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and covers the widest range of musical influences that have shaped her life and career.

So we get songs from her Broadway hits, wish fulfilment of songs she’s always wanted to perform, a dip into the country and Christian music of her upbringing, not to mention some disco and Dolly Parton too. It’s an eclectic mixture but one which proves revelatory, not just because of the many spoken interludes included here but because of the sheer joy of Chenoweth’s extraordinary soprano voice.

And that is in evidence right from the start of this 15 track collection. You might not think you need to hear another version of ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ or ‘Maybe This Time’ but she soars magnificently through both, exercising the full heft of her upper register to glorious effect and bringing particularly new life to the latter track. 

  

Phantom’s ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ similarly shines and she thoroughly owns Les Misérables ‘Bring Him Home’, a surprising but effective choice. And she pays nice tribute to Wicked with an amusingly multilingual version of ‘Popular’ and a duet on ‘For Good’ with a local singer named Axyl Langford (who sadly might not be too keen to preserved this way…).

The swerves away from musical theatre offer up some lovely moments too. Parton’s ‘Little Sparrow’ is beautifully done and the folkier songs ‘Fathers and Daughters’ and ‘Hard Times Come Again No More’ have a charming unaffected directness to them, offering up a fascinating balance to a record that feels like a real insight into Chenoweth as a performer and indeed, as a person.

Album Review: Nadim Naaman – Sides

“Livin’ for the moment’s rewards”

I did like Nadim Naaman’s first album We All Want The Same but with its compositions stretching over a decade of Naaman’s songwriting, it didn’t quite have the cohesion to show off his emerging talents. For his second CD though, he’s gone all-out to demonstrate the depths of both sides to him as a musician – opting for a double-length album, half the songs are musical theatre numbers which have received his own spin, and the other half are original songs written over the last year. Thus Sides reaches with larger ambition, and succeeds.

Naaman has a marvelous showman quality to his voice but it’s beautiful to hear him bring out all the colours he can – the sense of building excitement in The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s ‘Out There’, the driving, the driving swagger of The Fix’s One, Two, Three complemented by its tenderly heartfelt break. A jaunty ‘Moving Too Fast’ sees him looking back to one of his first professional roles as The Last Five Years’ Jamie whereas his current gig – Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera – is acknowledged with a startling but hugely effective Latin-inflected treatment of its title song, accompanied by the glorious richness of Celinde Schoenmaker’s voice.

Continue reading “Album Review: Nadim Naaman – Sides”