Album Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection

Andrew Lloyd Webber, Unmasled

Andrew Lloyd Webber marks his 70th birthday with a new musical anthology –  Unmasked: The Platinum Collection – taking in shows new and old with some surprises along the way (Beyoncé, Lana del Rey, Duncan from Blue )

“Oh what a circus, oh what a show”

Upon reaching 70 this year, Andrew Lloyd Webber is clearly in a reflective mood and hot on the heels of his autobiography Unmasked released last week, comes this new compilation album Unmasked: The Platinum Collection. Available physically as a 2CD or 4CD version (the latter with a 40 page book of liner notes and tributes), this collection looks back on a career spanning nearly 50 years and features some new twists on the material as well as reminding us of the old favourites.

Over the four discs, 17 of Lloyd Webber’s shows are represented here (Jesus Christ Superstar tops the list with 8 tracks, Evita and Phantom just behind), alongside assorted one-off songs (such as ‘Amigos Para Siempre’ from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Gary Barlow co-write ‘Sing’ from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee). But for ALW fans it will be the unreleased stuff that makes the mouth water – five new orchestral suites and a smattering of new recordings featuring the likes of Lana del Rey (a winsome ‘You Must Love Me’ and Gregory Porter (a spirited ‘Light At The End Of The Tunnel’. Continue reading “Album Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection”

Andrew Lloyd Webber celebrates 70 years with ‘Unmasked: The Platinum Collection’

In celebration of his 70th birthday this March, new compilation ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: THE PLATINUM COLLECTION will be available March 16th through UMC / Polydor.  

The collection is personally curated and overseen by Lloyd Webber to include classics from his earliest work starting with 1968’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat through his most recent School of Rock. 

Newly recorded songs from superstar artists Nicole Scherzinger (“Memory”, Cats), Gregory Porter (“Light at the End of the Tunnel”, Starlight Express) and Lana Del Rey (“You Must Love Me”, Evita) add to the collection of his cherished works from the past five decades. 

The set also contains recordings by world-class performers such as Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, Michael Ball, and released for the first time, Beyonce singing “Learn To Be Lonely” from the 2005 Academy Awards with Lloyd Webber accompanying on piano. 

UNMASKED: THE PLATINUM COLLECTION is available as 2 CD and 4 CD editions. The 4-disc version contains an exclusive 40-page book with a personally penned introduction from Lloyd Webber and more in-depth notes on each track, written by respected theatre critic and Lloyd Webber biographer Michael Coveney, together with personally written tributes from Barbara Streisand and Glenn Close among others. 

Pre-order 2 CD Edition

Pre-order 4 CD Edition

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TV Review: Russell T Davies’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream

“What visions have I seen”

When the RSC announced their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, surtitling it ‘A Play for the Nation’ as it tours the UK, working with amateur theatre groups across the land, they probably weren’t expecting it to be a play for the nation because somebody would be putting on another production of it every couple of weeks. Or maybe they were, it is one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays – indeed it is among my favourites as the first I ever read – and so why wouldn’t Filter bring it back to the Lyric Hammersmith, the Reversed Shakespeare Company put their own spin on it, Emma Rice opened her tenure at the Globe with it, and the Southwark Playhouse open their own version of it with Go People early next week…

For those outside of the London theatre bubble though, the opportunity to see a televised version of the play, adapted by Russell T Davies’ gay agenda and directed by David Kerr, won’t have felt like overkill. And there was much to commend in a reimagining of the play which dabbled in just a fair few changes for the most part and then decided to rip up the rulebook in a jubilant final ten minutes that will doubtless seize the headlines and rile the purists among us but regardless, managed to remain unerringly faithful to exactly how you would imagine Davies’ Dream might play out (Flute/soldier fanfic please!). Continue reading “TV Review: Russell T Davies’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Album Review: Follies (2011 New Broadway Cast Recording)

“I wanted something when I came here 30 years ago but I forgot to write it down”

Is Follies a show you can really just listen to? Many clearly agree but having got through this double-disc cast recording of Eric Schaeffer’s production of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s show from 2011, I’m not sure enough of it really translates on record. This is quite possibly coloured by the fact that I saw it for the first time earlier this year in a most fun semi-staged concert version at the Royal Albert Hall and memories are that are still strong.

So the interplay of past and present, the ghostly presence of the showgirls and the younger selves of the central foursome, doesn’t really come across. This recording tries to address that by including lengthy passages of scene-setting dialogue but without that initial familiarity with the material, it’s hard to see how much it would really help – plus there’s something moving in the sight of a group of veteran actors given such agency on a stage, it should definitely be produced more, difficult or no. Continue reading “Album Review: Follies (2011 New Broadway Cast Recording)”

Saturday afternoon Evita treats

With Evita about to open once again in London, this edition of Saturday afternoon treats is a Perón spectacular.

First up is a collection of ‘Don’t Cry For Me’s’ – I love the newer versions of Madalena Alberto (the incumbent Eva) and Elena Roger which are more subtle (at least at first) interpretations but there’s also something thrilling about the full-on diva mode it provokes in Patti LuPone and Elaine Paige and their wardrobes.

But then I delved a little deeper and was simply blown away by the clips of LuPone’s performance in the first Broadway production so there’s a hugely charming take on ‘Buenos Aires’ and a scorching version of ‘A New Argentina’ that is breathtaking. The stirring choreography of Elena Roger’s own ‘Buenos Aires’ remains an absolute delight so I thought I’d stick that on the end too.

Continue reading “Saturday afternoon Evita treats”

Saturday afternoon music treats

In this week’s selection, we have Elaine Paige simply giving us life with one of the most amazing routines you will ever see (the arrival of genuine menacing jazz flute at 3.06 is the best bit), a gorgeous snippet from the forthcoming Water Babies musical, a much-needed reminder of why Bernadette Peters is as highly regarded as she is, an excerpt of the launch concert for the Words Shared With Friends album, a (probably illegal) clip from the Broadway version of Damn Yankees which I saw on stage for the first time recently and Jonathan Groff being dreamy. 

 

 
 

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Review: Eat Pray Laugh!, Palladium

“You’ve aged…but I’ve stayed the same”

Ours was never a household that watched “variety’s gigastar” Dame Edna Everage and to be honest, her schtick always seemed a little old-hat even as a young’un. Still, one has to appreciate the towering achievement of over 50 years in the business and so when a kind invitation to the opening night of Barry Humphries’ Farewell Tour came my way, a trip to the London Palladium was in order. And to further ram home how out of sync I am with this performer, I found myself amazed at the size of the star-studded gala put on and the near-full critical complement that had turned out to see Eat Pray Laugh!

Additionally, I don’t watch much live comedy at all. It’s always a bit too hit and miss for my liking – there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re the only person not laughing – and being deaf, the acoustic challenges are often too much to surmount – actually, there’s nothing worse than a hall full of people pissing themselves at a joke you didn’t hear clearly. But along with the range of celebrities that turned up this Friday night, who am I to turn up my nose to a free ticket and so I shuffled past Elaine Paige and Maureen Lipman having a gossip, Richard E Grant taking sneaky pics of the set and Vivienne Westwood looking flawless to take my seat in the stalls.


And it was a difficult beginning. The first half sees Humphries play some of his other characters, most notably unreconstructed Aussie Sir Les Patterson, and I found it painful. Whether through residual affection for the performer, the determination to have a good Friday night out or some kind of meta-textual cultural commentary that went over my head, he seemed to go down a storm but the way in which this character gained laughs calls back to a best-forgotten era. Toilet humour may just not be to my taste but I can’t see how anyone could justifiably laugh at calling Asian people ‘slants’. Les’ gay Catholic priest brother makes a thankfully brief appearance too.

A winding monologue from a ghostly character called Sandy Stone changes the tone entirely to the end the first act but the interval is spent donning sparkly specs and frocks as Dame Edna finally arrives atop an elephant, revealing the spiritual awakening at an ashram that has provoked her retirement. And from the first wisecrack about the paupers in the balcony and the dress sense of those in the front rows, she proves impossible to resist. Bantering with the audience reveals a genuine sharpness in off-the-cuff comebacks, better than the set-pieces which includes a weirdly negative view of Stoke Newington, and the union of two unlikely audience members was eye-wateringly cringingly brilliant.

A finale involving trembling gladioli for the entire audience (what must the flower bill be like!) gets us up on our feet and then there’s a gorgeous moment as Humphries himself finally emerges, bidding us a heartfelt goodbye and though he teases us, one does get the feeling this really is goodbye. I found the nod to his long illustrious career here fascinating and I’d’ve loved to have heard more about it but that would have changed the nature of the show entirely. Still, I’m glad to say I have now seen Dame Edna live (and that I’ll never see Les Patterson again) and that my seat wasn’t too close to the front – between Les’ frothing spittle, flowers falling from the gods and Edna’s rapier-sharp wit, it’s a dangerous place to be! 

Running time: 3 hours, though I suppose it is variable from night to night

Booking until 8th January, then tours to Newcastle, Southampton, Norwich, Glasgow, Bristol, Leeds and Manchester

DVD Review: Hey Mr Producer

“Do something special, anything special…”

This charity shop malarkey is proving to be a veritable treasure trove of theatrical goodies, of variable quality I should stress, but after the delights of Ms Paige – which will be continued shortly with an upcoming DVD review – I was given this DVD of the 1998 Cameron Mackintosh extravaganza Hey Mr Producer which cost a whole 99p from a British Heart Foundation shop in north west London. A benefit concert ostensibly put together for the RNIB but also honouring and celebrating the work of producer Mackintosh (although oddly he was involved in putting the show together – honouring himself…) by bringing together excerpts from many of the most famous shows he has been involved in and pulling together an extraordinary cast of the musical theatre glitterati, many of whom originated the roles, the like of which has rarely been seen since.

And it really does come across as something special, at times a little frustrating but it is often the way with concerts like these that tantalise with little glimpses of shows and when the calibre of performer is such as it is here, one barely minds as there is much pleasure to be had. It is impressive how much was packed into the single evening, multi-song sections from shows were interspersed with single songs from others meaning that over 20 shows were showcased here. Whether it was shows I love – Little Shop of Horrors, Oliver!, Les Mis, ones I’m ok with – Phantom of the Opera, Company or even ones I’ve never actually seen – My Fair Lady, Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre, Carousel – the sequences that had more than one song worked surprisingly well, getting across something of the flavour of the shows even with the rapid pace and semi-staging. I would have loved to have seen and heard more from Anything Goes, Godspell and The Boyfriend and for Salad Days, Mackintosh’s favourite show apparently, to have gotten a proper treatment, but then I guess the three hour show would have gone on for days. Continue reading “DVD Review: Hey Mr Producer”

CD Review: Elaine Paige and Friends

“This is the nearest thing to crazy I have ever known”

There’s something rather amusing about the idea of Ms Paige leafing through her address book to decide who made the grade to appear on her latest duets album, last year’s Elaine Paige and Friends. We are most definitely in MOR territory here instead of musical theatre and the guest list reflects that with names like Barry Manilow, Neil Sedaka, Michael Bolton and Paul Anka popping up. There’s a couple of nods to her theatrical background too with John Barrowman and Idina Menzel on board too but the idea that either US country star LeAnn Rimes or controversial Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor stretches credulity just a little – it is however not surprising that Ms Dickson does not return here…

I must state for the record that this CD was purchased in the AgeUK charity shop in Sheffield for the princely sum of £1.99 – it was not one that I had envisaged buying previously but the combination of the unlikely aspects of the tracklisting and the simply delightful cover images meant that it was irresistible. And boy am I glad it was bought for me as it is one of the most amusing things I have ever listened to, as well as being one of the greatest crimes in recording history. The ways in which this CD, produced by Phil Ramone, offended are many and varied so I’ll just get right in there. Continue reading “CD Review: Elaine Paige and Friends”