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: Anton Du Beke – From The Top

“Is this the start of something wonderful and new?
Or one more dream that I cannot make true?”

There doesn’t seem to be anything that can stop the dead-eyed determination of Anton Du Beke to try and become the kind of all-round entertainer that his website proclaims him to be. Best known for his regular mid-season finishes on Strictly, he’s dipped his toes into the world of presenting (whatever happened to Hole in the Wall…) and now it is the record industry that has to avert its eyes politely for a wee while.

Released in time for Christmas, From The Top contains zero surprises. If you were thinking of getting for someone who likes him, then they are going to be satisfied. Du Beke has an inoffensive smooth tone that suits the more undemanding choices of standards here (‘Beyond The Sea’, ‘More’, ‘It Had To Be You’), Strictly singers Lance Ellington and Hayley Sanderson make guest appearances as does Connie Fisher, and there’s bags of that inimitable charisma of his. Continue reading “Album Review: Anton Du Beke – From The Top”

Album Review: The Sound of Music (2006 London Palladium Cast Recording)

“Today you have to learn to be a realist”

I wanted to love the London Palladium Cast Recording of The Sound of Music, I really did, but there’s just something missing, a magic ingredient or two gone awry which means that you can’t imagine it ever replacing the version of the score that you fell in love with, no matter which one that is.

This 2006 production was the first to use reality TV to cast its leading role – the BBC’s How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? proving to be a headline grabbing success and resulting in Connie Fisher winning the part of Maria, which she played for around 18 months in the end. She did experience the beginnings of vocal problems during the run, which have now pretty much put the kibosh on her musical theatre career, and it is hard not to feel that this recording does not capture Fisher at her best. Continue reading “Album Review: The Sound of Music (2006 London Palladium Cast Recording)”

Review: Wonderful Town, Milton Keynes Theatre

“Here we live, here we love, this is the place for self-expression”

Providing a much needed, strong reminder that large-scale musical revivals can come from north of the Watford Gap as well as below, Wonderful Town marked a major collaboration between Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, The Hallé Orchestra and The Lowry on this Leonard Bernstein show, which I have to admit to never having heard of before. As many a musical that has gone before and come after it, it is gossamer-light in plot but this is more than made up for with a richly evocative score, some nifty design and best of all, sparkling choreography from Andrew Wright who is now consistently making the case to be considered one of the best choreographers working in the country.

Connie Fisher and Lucy Van Gasse play Ruth and Eileen Sherwood, sisters from Ohio who are determined to escape their boring lives and move to New York City. Of course, on arriving in the Big Apple, following their dream ain’t quite as easy as it seems but in their quest for success, romance and a free meal or two, they meet and charm a wide range of colourful new friends and neighbours who help them through their trials. And matching the creative and production expertise on hand, director Braham Murray assembled a cracking ensemble which included particular favourites around these parts (albeit for different reasons) Michael Xavier and Tiffany Graves. Continue reading “Review: Wonderful Town, Milton Keynes Theatre”

Album Review: Connie Fisher – Secret Love

“The only time I’m happy is when I’m dreaming in the past”

A bit of a random one but I do have a sneaking regard for Connie Fisher. As the first of the winners of Lloyd-Webber’s TV casting shows, she’s taken a lot of stick despite being genuinely talented – I don’t think anyone could argue she didn’t deserve to win – but she has struggled to escape the shadow of The Sound of Music and her much-publicised vocal problems have garnered a little too much glee than is strictly tasteful, in my opinion at least.

Anyhoo, Secret Love was her second album, and though it does not feature the most adventurous of song selections – there’s a lot of standards and Lloyd-Webber (surprise…) on here, but it is all rather appealingly sung and Fisher’s warm voice makes this a CD I do rather enjoy listening to. Classics like ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ and ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ are given rich, laidback interpretations which she sings effortlessly, gliding over with a lovely warmth and relaxed confidence. The heartbreaking ‘When She Loved Me’ by Randy Newman from Toy Story 2 soars here in a beautiful version as does a lush-sounding ‘Secret Love’, indeed Doris Day’s wholesome image seems a perfect fit for Fisher and the oeuvre she is marking out for herself. Continue reading “Album Review: Connie Fisher – Secret Love”

Music Review: Julie Atherton – A Girl of Few Words & Simon Burke – Something About Always

Here’s a couple more CD reviews of two of my favourite theatrical performers and both cracking CDs which I recommend.

Julie Atherton – A Girl of Few Words

Possessed of one of the finest voices currently working in musical theatre if I say so myself, Julie Atherton captured my heart from the first time I saw Avenue Q and I’ve been under her spell ever since. This CD, featuring the songs of composer Charles Miller, marks her solo recording debut

I love most every song on here, but ‘If You Were Mine’ is particularly beautiful, the piano-led ‘Be Careful’ is excellent and the collaboration with Paul Spicer, ‘Someone Find Me’ is a fun duet, their friendship clear from the ease with which they harmonise and the final climbing chorus is just lovely. And if you’re lucky, there’s a nod to her most successful show, with a bonus track of ‘There’s A Fine Fine Line’ included, Continue reading “Music Review: Julie Atherton – A Girl of Few Words & Simon Burke – Something About Always”

2009 What’s On Stage Award nominations

THE SPOTLIGHT BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Katy Stephens – The Histories, RSC at the Roundhouse 
Deanna Dunagan – August: Osage County at the NT Lyttelton 
Lesley Sharp – Harper Regan at NT Cottesloe
Lindsay Duncan – That Face at the Duke of York’s 
Margaret Tyzack – The Chalk Garden at the Donmar Warehouse 
Penelope Wilton – The Chalk Garden at the Donmar Warehouse 

THE SPOTLIGHT BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Kenneth Branagh – Ivanov, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s 
Adam Godley – Rain Man at the Apollo 
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Othello at the Donmar Warehouse
Eddie Redmayne – Now or Later at the Royal Court Downstairs 
Ian McDiarmid – Six Characters in Search of an Author at the Gielgud 
Kevin Spacey & Jeff Goldblum – Speed the Plow at the Old Vic  Continue reading “2009 What’s On Stage Award nominations”