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: Noel Sullivan – Here I Go Again (2014)

“Don’t be afraid, to let them show”

Noel Sullivan will forever be a member of Hear’say first and foremost to me, the product of one of first of this generation of Saturday night music talent show – Popstars – but since then, a career in musical theatre has beckoned and it is on that, rather than his pop star life, that his debut album Here I Go Again concentrates. At a swift 9 tracks, he runs the gamut of his theatrical CV (What A Feeling, Grease, Rock of Ages, Flashdance, Priscilla…) but also throws in a couple of singer-songwriter moments lest we forget his versatility.

It’s nice to see Sullivan maintain strong links with his cast-mates from various shows as he’s a generous duet partner who really shines when sparking off someone else. A funky scratched-up take on ‘You’re The One That I Want’ with Lauren Samuels is sultry indeed, a powerful rendition of ‘Here And Now’ features the glorious Victoria Hamilton-Barritt in fine form, and Cyndi Lauper’s evergreen ‘True Colors’ twinkle once more with the added participation here of Richard Grieve and Graham Weaver. Continue reading “Album Review: Noel Sullivan – Here I Go Again (2014)”

Album Review: Ben Forster – Acoustic Covers (2012)

“I lost my head
And thought of all the stupid things I said”

Winner of ITV’s Superstar and now well-established West End leading man, current Phantom Ben Forster has released two solo albums of acoustic covers called, well, Acoustic Covers. The first sees him singing just with a solo guitar (Joe Watkin) to accompany him and whilst it is clearly a deeply personal collection of songs for him, there’s a slight lack of variety over the 11 tracks which makes it a slightly less than essential record.

There are some lovely moments – the vocalisations that accompany Coldplay’s ‘Trouble’, the building power in the vocal of Jacko’s ‘She’s Out Of My Life’, and the sweet guitar playing that lifts the likes of ‘Cannonball’ and the incomparable Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’. And when Forster is just singing ‘em straight, really connecting with the songwriting, you can see all the musicality that has got him this far in his career. Continue reading “Album Review: Ben Forster – Acoustic Covers (2012)”

Re-review: Kinky Boots, Adelphi

“I am freedom, I’m constriction
A potpourri of contradiction”

A cheeky trip back to Kinky Boots (my third time) – here’s my review from last time. I’ll just say Matt Henry continues to be fiercely amazing, the wholesome David Hunter is perfectly (re)cast as ol’ Charlie boy, and Elena Skye manages the not-inconsiderable feat of stepping into Amy Lennox’s shoes as the hilarious Lauren. It’s still a lovely, lovely show and I’m really pleased that it appears to still be doing really well. Now put the nose on the Charlie!

CD Review: Louise Dearman – Here Comes The Sun (The Wicked Edition)

“I don’t think you unworthy 
I need a moment to deliberate”

Louise Dearman’s second album saw her pivot away from the world of musical theatre to a collection of her favourite songs off the radio, ranging from The Beatles to Sara Bareilles but tending towards a slightly darker, more dramatic side of pop, even pop/rock as a Skunk Anansie cover also makes it onto the tracklisting. It’s a well put-together collection that clearly delivers what Dearman wants to do in broadening her musical identity, it could however stand to incorporate just a little more variation.

Here Comes The Sun is heavy on the vividly orchestral – Alanis Morissette’s ‘Uninvited’ and Randy Crawford’s ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ soar on swoops of strings, Bareilles’ Gravity and Dee C Lee’s See The Day, more recently covered by Girls Aloud, comes in slightly less melodramatically, and uniting them all is the mightily bright voice of Dearman, clear as a bell whether the forceful anger of ‘Squander’, the Skunk Anansie track, the epic in miniature that is Alison Moyet’s ‘This House’ or the gentle gorgeousness of Bareilles’ ‘Gravity’. Across all the songs, Dearman’s talent for telling stories through music also comes across powerfully.

For me, the album’s highpoint emerges as a sprightly take on Annie Lennox’s ‘Little Bird’, not least because it provides a rare change of tempo, and I also have a soft spot for the lovely duet on ‘Time After Time’ with Steve Balsamo. The Wicked Edition of the album adds a gently acoustic version of ‘Defying Gravity’, sure to please any fans of Wicked and an additional bonus track tacked onto the end will also appeal to friends of Dorothy (and acts as another reminder that uptempo Dearman works well).


Album Review: Billy Porter – Billy’s Back On Broadway

 “The towering feeling just to know somehow you are near”

Billy Porter’s career may have received a fillip from winning the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his turn as Lola in Kinky Boots (a pattern interestingly repeated by Matt Henry at the Oliviers this year) but he is a performer who has certainly paid his dues. From his 1994 debut in Grease, he’s carved out as a path as an almost old-school multi-disciplinary entertainer – appearing on film and TV as well as on stage, writing plays and music…boy’s been keeping busy.

Billy’s Back On Broadway marks his third album and proves an interesting blend of everything that makes up Billy. The songlist is pure Broadway as the title suggests but the approach from Porter and producer Rob Mounsey is much more varied, bringing in elements both of the jazz and the more contemporary R&B he loves. Combined with idiosyncratic takes on some of these classics, it makes for an always interesting collection. Continue reading “Album Review: Billy Porter – Billy’s Back On Broadway”

Album Review: Kinky Boots (Original Broadway Cast Recording 2013)

“Charlie from Northampton, meet Simon from Clapton”

There is something undoubtedly ironic about a show set in Northampton opening on Broadway before it took its bow on the West End but such it was for Kinky Boots, birthed on the Great White Way with a book by Harvey Fierstein and a Tony-winning score from Cyndi Lauper. And it was that cast that got to release their album first, unleashing Lauper’s joyous songs onto the public.

Unfortunately, they also unleashed some atrocious accents onto us as well. They may have passed a more forgiving (or unaware) US public but to British ears, there’s no hiding from how awkward it sounds at so many points across the disc. Especially now that we have a West End recording available, I’d struggle to recommend this version for any real reason. Continue reading “Album Review: Kinky Boots (Original Broadway Cast Recording 2013)”

Album Review: Kinky Boots (Original West End Cast Recording)

“I am freedom, I’m constriction
A potpourri of contradiction”

With rather serendipitous timing, the West End cast recording for Cyndi Lauper’s score for Kinky Boots is released just in time for the show’s Best New Musical victory at this year’s Olivier awards. And it is particularly good news for fans of the show as up until now, we’ve had to make do with the Broadway cast recording and their, challenging shall we say, approach to the requisite British accents.

Recorded live at the Adelphi with the original West End cast (including Best Actor in a Musical winner Matt Henry and nominees Killian Donnelly and Amy Lennox), it’s a welcome addition to playlists and CD collections everywhere.

The live recording is be a double-edged sword – there can be more raw energy than one might expect from a recording booth and that comes in the form of an audible audience. I quite like to hear their laughter, especially when it is from something familiar as in the comic genius of Lennox’s performance of ‘The History of Wrong Guys’ here, but the applause at the end of each track is jarring when listening to the album as a whole. And I’m not 100% certain but I’m pretty sure there’s someone coughing a couple of times which is a shame (though perfectly replicates sitting through pretty much any show!). Continue reading “Album Review: Kinky Boots (Original West End Cast Recording)”

Re-review: Kinky Boots, Adelphi

Funk it up till it’s ostentatious
Dress it up, it feels contagious”

Now extended through to May next year, the signs for Kinky Boots look cautiously positive though nothing is certain in the cut-throat world of new musicals and on this second viewing, it really does feel like a well-deserved success. Jerry Mitchell’s production is a ray of tightly choreographed, dragged-up sunshine but what I loved about going back was finding that several of the tunes from Cyndi Lauper’s accomplished score have successfully navigated earworm territory to become properly memorable. 

‘Everybody Say Yeah’ and ‘Raise You Up/Just Be’ end the show’s two acts in brilliantly rousing fashion, ‘Sex is in the Heel’ and ‘What A Woman Wants’ give Matt Henry’s Lola ample opportunity to fill the stage with exuberant personality and Amy Lennox continues to pretty much steal the show, not least in ‘The History of Wrong Guys’. And Killian Donnelly effortlessly smooths over some of Charlie’s more dubious character flaws (poor Nicola…) by scorching through hits like ‘Soul of a Man’. Continue reading “Re-review: Kinky Boots, Adelphi”