Album Reviews: Audra McDonald – Sing Happy / Louise Dearman – For You, For Me / Everybody’s Talking About Jamie cast recording

Casting my eye over some recent musical theatre album releases: Audra McDonald’s live album Sing Happy, Louise Dearman’s latest collection For You, For Me and the long-awaited cast recording for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie 

There are few things as well-designed as Audra McDonald’s thrilling soprano to make you happy, so the title of her new album Sing Happy is apt indeed. Her first live album and her first backed by an orchestra (the New York Philharmonic). the gig was recorded  just a few days ago on 1st May and no wonder they were so quick to turn it around.

Whether shimmering through Porgy and Bess‘ timeless ‘Summertime’, proudly getting her life in La Cage aux Folles’ ‘I Am What I Am’ or absolutely nailing She Loves Me’s ‘Vanilla Ice Cream’, McDonald’s velvety textured voice is always so exciting to listen to. And the drama of songs like ‘Never Will I Marry’ sound glorious with the richness of the orchestral backing (conducted by Andy Einhorn).

An affinity for Sondheim comes into play twice, a medley of ‘Children Will Listen’ with South Pacific’s ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’ and in a showstopping take on ‘Being Alive’, still manages to surprise with the heights to which she lifts the song. An unalloyed, absolute pleasure. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Audra McDonald – Sing Happy / Louise Dearman – For You, For Me / Everybody’s Talking About Jamie cast recording”

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”

Hear some of the songs from The Grinning Man, done rather differently

 

“First you must come with me and see what I’ve found”

The producers of The Grinning Man must have been really really happy when Hamilton announced that it was delaying its opening night so that it would fall into the same week as theirs. Fortunately, The Grinning Man gets in first and has a few days’ grace and it is also taking a little inspiration from the hit Broadway show in the way it is presenting its score. So where Lin-Manuel Miranda called in mates like Alicia Keys, Usher, Kelly Clarkson and The Roots for The Hamilton Mixtape, The Grinning Man has released a set of clips of West End stars and celebrities singing their own versions of some of the songs from the show.

It’s an intriguing move, especially as Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler’s score is not yet widely known, but it is also a fascinating one as the likes of Matt Lucas and Hannah Waddingham, Kelsey Grammer and Louise Dearman put their own stamp on some of the best tunes whilst never straying too far from the gothic darkness of the source material. Continue reading “Hear some of the songs from The Grinning Man, done rather differently”

Album Review: The Route To Happiness (2014 Original Cast Recording)

“Better we’d not met”

I saw a festival presentation of Alexander S Bermange’s The Route To Happiness at the Landor back in 2013 and a year later, an original cast recording was made available through Auburn Jam, albeit with an entirely different cast. So in place of Cassidy Janson, Niall Sheehy, and Shona White, we get Kerry Ellis, Ben Forster and Louise Dearman taking on the roles of this three-hander.

The story follows the pursuit of fame, money and love and how the three intersect in the intertwined stories of Trinity, Marcus and Lorna. But where the show has maintained a fairly positive place in my memory, listening to the double-album of the score felt like a bit of a chore. Musically it is accomplished but far too similar-sounding, there’s little sense of progression to carry you through. Continue reading “Album Review: The Route To Happiness (2014 Original Cast Recording)”

News: A version of the London marathon for musical theatre fans

It’s the London Marathon on 23rd April but a week before, The Other Palace invites you to The Musical Marathon – a one-off charity concert bringing together a variety of West End stars in aid of male cancer charity Orchid. All Tickets are £26; £26 for 26 miles, 26 songs and an unmissable night of musical talent at 7pm on Sunday 16th April.


Organised by Paul Taylor-Mills, Artistic Director of The Other Palace and producer of shows including In The Heights and The Wild Party, the show will raise vital funds for Orchid, and their fight against male cancer. The evening will be hosted by Caroline Flack and will feature performances from Louise Dearman, Tyrone Huntley, Zizi Strallen, Oliver Savile, Liam Doyle, Nathan Amzi, Kim Criswell, Liam Tamne, Christina Modesto, Emma Kingston, Lockie Chapman, Shaun McCourt and Idriss Kargbo.
Orchid is the UK’s leading charity working on behalf of anyone affected by male cancer. Established in 1996 by testicular cancer patient, Colin Osborne MBE and the oncologist who saved his life, Professor Tim Oliver, Orchid exists to save men’s lives from male cancer through a range of support services, education and awareness campaigns and a pioneering research programme.

Review: Side Show, Southwark Playhouse

“If you don’t say yes I’ll have a heart attack that will kill us both”

In what I thought was a serendipitous move, I just finished watching American Horror Story: Freak Show before going to see Side Show, but it turned out to be most unhelpful. For not only the connection (seemingly by dress) of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton with the twin heads of Sarah Paulson’s Bette and Dot pales by comparison, but the darkness of representing a ‘freak’ show is far more suited to the horror genre than this rather anaemic musical.

With book and lyrics written by Bill Russell and music by Henry Krieger (whose Dreamgirls finally arrives in London next month), Side Show has managed two abortive runs on Broadway since premiering in 1997, so it makes sense for Southwark Playhouse to take it on with their sterling record for reinvigorating musical theatre of varying reputations. But despite director Hannah Chissick and producer Paul Taylor-Mills’ best efforts, I’m not sure it is rehabilitated. Continue reading “Review: Side Show, Southwark Playhouse”

Album Review: Louise Dearman – You and I (2005)

“But still you steal each breath I’m breathing”
 
For a musical theatre star known for her big voice, there’s something gorgeous about listening to how beautiful Louise Dearman’s first album is in all its unashamed subtlety. From its opening Leslie Bricusse double-header – Goodbye Mr Chips’s ‘You And I’ and Jekyll and Hyde’s ‘Someone Like You’ (with Frank Wildhorn) – to restrained takes on classics like Les Misérables’ On My Own and Chicago’s ‘Funny Honey’, you can’t help but be taken by the beauty of her tone in all its colour and softness.
 
The stripped-back piano-based aesthetic is thus ideally suited here, paring back Lloyd Webber’s innate grandiosity to find real heart in ‘Whistle Down The Wind’, connecting perfectly with all the raw emotion of Ragtime’s ‘Your Daddy’s Son’, gently swinging through Show Boat’s ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man Of Mine’. Jimmy Jewell’s work on the keys is superlative, ensuring there’s always musical interest in the arrangements whilst never forgetting the key role of accompanying Dearman.

Continue reading “Album Review: Louise Dearman – You and I (2005)”

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).