Album Review: Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers

“I have dreamed what a joy you’ll be”

Who knew that exploring the soul of Richard Rodgers would reveal a Lauryn Hill sample and a guest rap from upcoming Bronx rapper Zaire Park? And that’s just on ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ alone. But that’s exactly what you find on Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers, a project co-produced and co-curated by Billy Porter, the Tony Award-winning Broadway actor and musician.

With lyricists Oscar Hammerstein II and Lorenz Hart, legendary composer Richard Rodgers redefined the American musical theatre with now-classic musicals like Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, and The King and I. And now Porter pays tribute to his legacy by reinterpreting his songbook with an entirely more contemporary soulful bent. In his own words, “I like to think of this as the Richard Rodgers version of the Hamilton Mixtapes.”  Continue reading “Album Review: Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers”

Album Review: Sister Act the musical (Original London Cast Recording)

“Queen of Angels is not your grandma’s church anymore. God help your grandmother if it were.”

It was quite the unexpected pleasure returning to this soundtrack. My abiding memories of Sister Act the Musical were of initial disappointment that it wasn’t a retread of the film (one of my all-time favourites doncha know), the randomness of Whoopi Goldberg jetting in for a week of shows and the subsequent tour being rather good (if a little spoiled by the women behind me not shutting up for a minute). But listening to Alan Menken’s score, I was amazed how much of it I was able to easily recall – I may have seen the show 3 times but the last trip was back in 2012.

And how. From the raucous girl-group energy of openers ‘Take Me To Heaven’ and ‘Fabulous, Baby!’ to the (only slightly) more sedate musical offerings of the nuns’ choir in ‘Raise Your Voice’ and ‘Bless Our Show’, there’s a roof-raising joyousness to many of the songs that brings larger groups of the cast together. And leading from the front, the glorious Patina Miller is a full-throated pleasure to listen to as the divine Deloris, her voice soaring like a heavenly host but also capable of tenderness as in the stirring simplicity of the title track. Continue reading “Album Review: Sister Act the musical (Original London Cast Recording)”

CD Review: Scott Alan – What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up

“Not quite ready to grieve”

I looked at Scott Alan’s live album last week and this week it is the turn of 2010’s What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up. His third album, it follows the similar path of collating songs around a common theme but still showcasing a wide range of musical influences from Alan, and showing off the extent of his address book in calling in some of Broadway’s brightest lights to help him out. It’s a nice collection but one which never really kicks fully into gear for me. 

The relaxed radio-friendly emotion of Laura Osnes’ ‘Easy’ and ‘Warm’ by Zak Resnick & Morgan James and the chirpy, almost girl-group pop of Nikki Renee Daniels’ ‘Love, Love, Love’ show Alan’s undoubted skill with a well-honed melody and capturing contemporary pop sensibilities. His favoured style of writing is clearly stonking empowerment anthems of which there are plenty here – ‘Watch Me Soar’ by Willemijn Verkaik and ‘I Wish’ by Diana DeGarmo probably rank as the two strongest. Continue reading “CD Review: Scott Alan – What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up”

67th Tony Award winners

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play 
Tracy Letts – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as George
Tom Hanks – Lucky Guy as Mike McAlary
Nathan Lane – The Nance as Chauncey
David Hyde Pierce – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as Vanya
Tom Sturridge – Orphans as Phillip

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Cicely Tyson – The Trip to Bountiful as Miss Carrie Watts
Laurie Metcalf – The Other Place as Juliana Smithton
Amy Morton – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as Martha
Kristine Nielsen – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as Sonia
Holland Taylor – Ann as Ann Richards

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical 
Billy Porter – Kinky Boots as Lola
Bertie Carvel – Matilda the Musical as Miss Trunchbull
Santino Fontana – Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella as Prince Topher
Rob McClure – Chaplin as Charlie Chaplin
Stark Sands – Kinky Boots as Charlie Price Continue reading “67th Tony Award winners”

67th Tony Award nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play 
Tom Hanks – Lucky Guy as Mike McAlary
Nathan Lane – The Nance as Chauncey
Tracy Letts – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as George
David Hyde Pierce – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as Vanya
Tom Sturridge – Orphans as Phillip

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Laurie Metcalf – The Other Place as Juliana Smithton
Amy Morton – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as Martha
Kristine Nielsen – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as Sonia
Holland Taylor – Ann as Ann Richards
Cicely Tyson – The Trip to Bountiful as Miss Carrie Watts

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical 
Bertie Carvel – Matilda the Musical as Miss Trunchbull
Santino Fontana – Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella as Prince Topher
Rob McClure – Chaplin as Charlie Chaplin
Billy Porter – Kinky Boots as Lola
Stark Sands – Kinky Boots as Charlie Price Continue reading “67th Tony Award nominations”

CD Review: Out Of Our Heads – The Music of Kooman and Dimond

“I’m not like the other girls in the show”  

Albums that are made up of selections from the catalogue of musical theatre writers, as opposed to straight soundtracks, tend to fit into a generally similar format, as my experience of listening to quite a few this year has borne out. And by and large, I can tell whether I am going to like it the album on the strength of the comedy song – for there is always a comedy song – and sure enough, when it came to Out Of Our Heads – The Music of Kooman and Dimond (alt iTunes link here), so this rule came to pass. Pleasingly enough, that song – Random Black Girl – comes in as the second track and is an absolute corker both musically tight and lyrically hilarious and thus overall, I really enjoyed the album.

Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond are something of an up and coming pair of US musical theatre writers with a handful of shows to their names – Golden Gate, Dani Girl and Homemade Fusion – that have been bubbling under whilst they build up their name and reputation. They seem on the right track as this CD, a selection of their songs, features a line-up of exciting Broadway, including at least one name that should be familiar to UK theatre-goers in the fabulous (baby) Patina Miller who headed up Sister Act here and is reprising the role back over the ocean. Continue reading “CD Review: Out Of Our Heads – The Music of Kooman and Dimond”

Album Review: Scrapbook – The Songs of Robert Archibald and Verity Quade

“Don’t want to be dependent on a wink, a smile, or kiss.”

At the beginning of the year I unexpectedly caught a fun cabaret Scrapbook Live, showcasing the work of musical theatre writers Robert Archibald and Verity Quade, which I enjoyed considerably even though I hadn’t heard the CD from which much of the material was taken: Scrapbook – The Songs of Robert Archibald and Verity Quade.

Having now downloaded it, I gave it a listen over the last week and in some ways, it is a bit of a double-edged sword having seen the live gig. It gave me that nice sense of recognition with some of the more memorable songs which made it a fascinating listen, but it also reminded me of the energy that accompanied the renditions of the songs and the live accompaniment. I have to say I wasn’t a fan of much of the orchestrations on the CD, it sounds a little bit too processed, too artificial, keyboards instead of pianos but then that’s just what I prefer. Continue reading “Album Review: Scrapbook – The Songs of Robert Archibald and Verity Quade”

65th Tony Award nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play 
Brian Bedford – The Importance of Being Earnest as Lady Bracknell
Bobby Cannavale – The Motherfucker With the Hat as Jackie
Joe Mantello – The Normal Heart as Ned Weeks
Al Pacino – The Merchant of Venice as Shylock
Mark Rylance – Jerusalem as Johnny “Rooster” Byron

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Nina Arianda – Born Yesterday as Emma ‘Billie’ Dawn
Frances McDormand – Good People as Margie Walsh
Lily Rabe – The Merchant of Venice as Portia

Vanessa Redgrave – Driving Miss Daisy as Daisy Werthan
Hannah Yelland – Brief Encounter as Laura Jesson

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical 
Norbert Leo Butz – Catch Me If You Can as Carl Hanratty
Josh Gad – The Book of Mormon as Elder Cunningham
Joshua Henry – The Scottsboro Boys as Haywood Patterson
Andrew Rannells – The Book of Mormon as Elder Price
Tony Sheldon – Priscilla Queen of the Desert as Bernadette Continue reading “65th Tony Award nominations”

Re-Review: Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, Palladium

“I had a revelation when I skipped my medication”

One of the cardinal rules of theatre booking is that you should never book to see a show just to see a particular performer as that road can only lead to disappointment. And so it came to be when I booked a return visit to Sister Act The Musical when it was announced that Whoopi Goldberg would be covering the role of Mother Superior for most of August for the sole reason of seeing her rather than any desire to see the show again. With the sad news of her mother taking very ill, Whoopi was forced to cut her run short and return to the US and so I ended up giving my tickets to a friend.

But the world works in mysterious ways and I clearly had some good karma stored up so when I booked the shows on my Groupon deal (including this one as I had decided to give it a whirl again since it had announced it was closing in advance of a move to Broadway and also to make way for The Wizard of Oz) and was randomly allocated a date, it just so happened to coincide with Goldberg’s return to the show for just 5 performances. Continue reading “Re-Review: Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, Palladium”