Album reviews: Marie Oppert – Enchantée / Kim David Smith Live at Joe’s Pub / Siobhan Dillon – One Voice

Reviews of a trio of excellent albums: Marie Oppert – Enchantée, Kim David Smith Live at Joe’s Pub and Siobhan Dillon – One Voice, all recommended

I do love me a soprano and discovering a new one feels like as good a way to spend lockdown as any. Marie Oppert is a French singer and actress whose debut, at age 17, came in a major concert version of a little-known show called Les Parapluies de Cherbourg… From those Michel Legrand-sanctioned days, she has established a notable career and now releases her first solo album EnchantéeBack by the luscious sound of the Orchestre National de Lille and conductor Nicholas Skilbeck, this collection sees Oppert explore a bilingual songbook that stretches from the boulevards of Paris to Broadway.

The result is something rather glorious. The sumptuous treatment of the likes of ‘The Light in the Piazza’ and ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ are near ecstatic, ‘Children Will Listen’ in French brings a new dynamism to a familiar piece, and characterful duets with Melissa Orrico and Natalie Dessay, whom she charmingly terms her “two Franco-American ‘fairy godmothers”, both impress. The irrepressible energy of 1938 track ‘Y’a d’la joie’ is an absolute standout and an interpretation of Billy Elliott’s ‘Electricity’ has no right to be as effective as it is here. Sod’s law though, Oppert is playing in London next month but bloody Covid restrictions means I can only go by buying a table for two. Continue reading “Album reviews: Marie Oppert – Enchantée / Kim David Smith Live at Joe’s Pub / Siobhan Dillon – One Voice”

The finalists of The Offies 2020

The finalists for the 2020 Offies (for performances in 2019) have been announced and congratulations to all 89 mentioned below. A tip of the hat too to the 400+ nominees who you can find here.

DESIGN

Design: Costume
Adrian Gee, Amour, Charing Cross Theatre
Emily Bestow, 42nd Street, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Hannah Wolfe , Great Expectations, National Youth
Theatre, Southwark Playhouse

Design: Set
Diego Pitarch, Night of the Living Dead – Live!,
Pleasance
Justin Williams, Whistle Down the Wind, Union
Theatre
Lee Newby, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre
Rachael Ryan, Thrill Me, Hope Theatre

Design: Sound
Benjamin Grant, The War of the Worlds, New Diorama
Lex Kosanke, Hunger, Arcola
Matt Eaton, All’s Well That Ends Well, Guildford Bard,
Jermyn Street Theatre
Xana, Blood Knot, Orange Tree

Design: Lighting
Christopher Nairne, Preludes, Southwark Playhouse
Clancy Flynn, An Act of God, Vaults
Jessica Hung Han Yun, Equus, English Touring Theatre,
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Nic Farman, Night of the Living Dead – Live!, Pleasance

Design: Video
Andrzej Goulding, The Unreturning, Theatre Royal
Stratford East
Ben Bull, Baby Reindeer, Bush Theatre
Douglas Baker, Moby Dick, Jack Studio Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2020”

Album Review: Melissa Errico – Legrand Affair (Deluxe Edition)

A re-release of Melissa Errico’s album Legrand Affair further deepens her exceptional relationship to Michel Legrand’s songbook

“The time will come when all the waiting’s done”

I can’t pretend to be anywhere near objective about the music of Michel Legrand, it just touches my soul in the most intimate, indescribable way, so naturally the news of his death at the beginning of the year was devastating. And it is apparent that he inspires such devotion from many others too, most notably US Tony nominee Melissa Errico.

Her 2011 album Legrand Affair was a real labour of love, recorded over a number of years with Legrand and the Brussels Philharmonic. And it deservedly established her as such a first-rate interpreter of his material that she has been called upon to participate many of the memorials that have celebrated his legacy this year. Continue reading “Album Review: Melissa Errico – Legrand Affair (Deluxe Edition)”

Album Review: Alice Fearn – Where I’ve Been…Where I’m Going

I finally get round to listening to Alice Fearn’s 2016 album Where I’ve Been…Where I’m Going and enjoy it, a lot

“A late night ‘Yes sir’
leads to good press sir”

I’m always pleased to see musical theatre performers trekking a little off the beaten path when it comes to putting together the tracklisting for their albums. As deeply held a connection as they may have to this standard or that, it can get a little wearing to hear the same material regurgitated time and again. So Alice Fearn instantly gets brownie points for her 2016 collection Where I’ve Been…Where I’m Going.

Michel Legrand rubs shoulders with Andrew Lippa, there’s a deep dive into the Kander + Ebb archive, Sondheim is in there but he’s gender-flipped and there’s a track from Smash that reminds me I really need to get around to watching that show. And allowing her inspiration to draw far and wide just adds that extra level of interest, surprise even as in the case of the brassy delights of Frank Wildhorn & Jack Murphy’s ‘Big Time’ which was new to me and an instant fave. Continue reading “Album Review: Alice Fearn – Where I’ve Been…Where I’m Going”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2018 nominees

Best UK Cast Recording
Broken Wings – Original Concept Album
Calendar Girls – Original London Recording
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Original West End Cast Recording
Six The Musical – Studio Cast Recording
Working: A Musical – Original London Cast Recording
Young Frankenstein – Original London Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Frozen – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Mean Girls – Original Broadway Cast Recording
My Fair Lady – 2018 Broadway Cast Recording
Once On This Island – New Broadway Cast Recording
Pretty Woman – Original Broadway Cast Recording
The Prom – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album
Audra McDonald – Sing Happy
Carrie Hope Fletcher – When The Curtain Falls
David Hunter – Silver Linings
Louise Dearman – For You, For Me
Natasha Barnes – Real
Sutton Foster – Take Me To The World

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”

Album Review: Marguerite (2008 Original London Cast Recording)

“Come see the show,
She will neither know nor care”

It is always fascinating to listen to the cast recordings of shows that are regarded to have flopped, to see whether the writing was always on the wall or if some reason was responsible for the magic not happening. Lasting just four months at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2008, Marguerite is one such musical, despite (or maybe because of) the weight of expectation behind its writing team.

With a book by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Jonathan Kent (from the the Alexandre Dumas, fils’ novel La Dame aux Camélias) lyrics by Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer, and music by Michel Legrand, the demands on these Gallic grandees were nothing short of recreating the exceptional success of Les Misérables (on which Boublil, Schönberg and Kretzmer collaborated) but it wasn’t to be. Continue reading “Album Review: Marguerite (2008 Original London Cast Recording)”

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)”

DVD Review: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)

“Tous ces gens qui chantent, moi, tu comprends, ça me fait mal.”

I will never truly understand why some people insist on hating musicals so, the rich diversity of the genre meaning there’s such range and to dismiss them all in the same breath feels lazy. But with that in mind as I sat down to rewatch Jacques Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, one does have to recognise that this most glorious of film musicals does take some getting used to. The entire film is sung as recitative, right down to the last piece of dialogue and though Michel Legrand’s score swells with such beautiful themes as ‘I Will Wait For You’, the near-operatic style is resolutely unforgiving.

But this total immersion is what makes the film work, the heightened colours of the costumes and set create a special visual language that nods to the world of Hollywood musicals but rather than the sometimes cloying saccharine of those films, here the flavour is more of a sherbet lemon – there’s sweetness in the romantic headiness of Geneviève and Guy’s teenage relationship but sourness too as things turn bittersweet, Demy doesn’t protect his characters from the harsh realities of life as pregnancy, debt, conscription and parental pressure come into play over naïve dreams of love. Continue reading “DVD Review: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)”