Review: It’s Only Life, Union

A revue done right. Aria Entertainment’s It’s Only Life brings John Bucchino’s work to beautiful life at the Union Theatre

“There is a sidewalk in California
Where they put the stars right at your feet
And people delight in stepping on them…”

It’s trickier than you might think to make a revue really work. Putting together a programme of unconnected songs to showcase a composer’s work is one thing, but breathing genuine theatrical life into it is entirely another. Fortunately, the folks behind It’s Only Life, produced by Aria Entertainment at the Union Theatre, have done just that.

The US composer and lyricist John Bucchino is the man of the moment here, in a show conceived by himself and Daisy Prince. But it is tempting to consider director Tania Azevedo the real star, leading a superb company of cast and creatives to elevate what could be something quite slight, into a couple of hours of something really quite moving. Continue reading “Review: It’s Only Life, Union”

CD Review: Patti LuPone – Matters of the Heart (1999)

 “I’d say someday I’m bound to give my heart away”

There are few things I would like more in life than to be Patti LuPwned but short of spending hundreds of dollars to buy a ticket to be thrown ignominiously out of some Broadway house or other, I have to make do with texting whilst listening to her recorded output. Unusually, LuPone has been sparing in what she has committed to disc in terms of her solo work as opposed to cast recordings and so 1999’s Matters of the Heart is one of her only albums proper, in that respect. 
 
Which is a shame as the song selection is peerless, pulling from all manners of sources to provide a wide-ranging but largely successful collection. Lennon and McCartney’s ‘It’s For You’ is a revelation, nearly a torch song of new love as is The Hollies’ ‘Air That I Breathe’ in an ethereally lovely version here. And the almost-crushing sadness of Beth Nielsen Chapman’s ‘Sand And Water’ is alleviated with a dynamic piano line that forges on as life must do.

Continue reading “CD Review: Patti LuPone – Matters of the Heart (1999)”

Music Review: Alan Cumming – I Bought A Blue Car Today

“You have to understand the way I am, mein herr”

Supported by a series of shows on both sides of the Atlantic, Alan Cumming’s I Bought A Blue Car Today documents his last 10 years of slowly becoming an American citizen whilst never really losing the impish Scottish charm for which he is so well known from appearances in film, tv and onstage. Under the musical direction of Lance Horne, he rips through a huge range of songwriters and styles whilst showing off a new facet to his ‘many talents and one which pleases for the most part.

He slips between the world of popular music and musical theatre with an impressive ease: a rousing rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Shine’ is matched by the stirring take on ‘Where I Want To Be’ from Chess; and who else could trace a journey from Dory Previn’s ‘Dance and Dance and Smile and Smile’ to a Mika song via Victoria Wood’s ‘Thinking of You’. But the highlight is probably a sleazily sensual riff on ‘Mein Herr’ from Cabaret that is downright filthy but huge amounts of fun. Continue reading “Music Review: Alan Cumming – I Bought A Blue Car Today”

Album Review: John Barr – In Whatever Time We Have

“Even clowns need their time to cry”

There have been a few CD reviews posted on here over the last few months but they have all been of albums that I have bought myself and loved, thus inevitably not necessarily the most balanced of views across the spectrum of what’s out there. So friends and colleagues have been lending me the musical theatre CDs that they listen to and I’ll be trying to keep up to reviewing at least one per week and we will see how it goes. If you click on the tag ‘music’ at the bottom of the post, that should bring up all the CD reviews until I work out a different way of presenting them on here.

First up is John Barr’s 1998 album In Whatever Time We Have. Barr has become quite an established cabaret singer now as well as stints performing in several of the big long-runners in the West End, though I saw him most recently in Sondheim’s Assassins at the Union (not counting his performance at the Scrapbook Live concert). This is a mostly ballad-heavy album, with some attempts at variety which don’t always come off but this is also something which cuts both ways. His singing style here is so smooth at times that one misses a little of the variety that could be explored here even within the ballads: in particular the lovely ‘Does the Moment Ever Come?’ from Stiles & Drewe’s Just So has much of its searching questioning tone ironed out which robs it of much of the emotional heft of the song. But hearing songs sung out of the context of the shows from which they’re taken, especially when they are much loved by yourself, means it is difficult to put the versions you know and love out of your mind. Continue reading “Album Review: John Barr – In Whatever Time We Have”