CD Review: Love on 42nd Street

“Lost myself in the night”

Love on 42nd Street is an album of new music by composer duo Daniel and Laura Curtis, recorded by a stellar line-up of West End and Broadway performer, all in aid of raising money for the BBC’s Children in Need campaign. As performers, the Curtises are noted for their interpretations of Ivor Novello‘s works and the Great American Songbook, and these influences are plain to see in the set of eight songs that make up this collection.

Written specifically for these performers, the composers have deliberately chosen to span a range of genres but the feel is always reflective. Song construction, melody lines, string arrangements are relatively traditional, frequently stirring and soaring though rarely superlative. Part of the problem lies in its professionalism, several of the songs are presented with a radio-friendly polished sheen which lacks the passionate theatrical edge that would really make them stand out. Continue reading “CD Review: Love on 42nd Street”

Christmas music 2013

A Very West End Christmas

A rather special project, A Very West End Christmas has gathered up a group of nearly 50 musical theatre performers to record an EP of 5 Christmas classics for a number of charitable causes – Great Ormond Street’s Giggin’ for Good, West End Fests for CRY UK and The Band Aid Charitable Trust. It’s a steal at £3.95 for the EP and with some seriously great talent onboard, assembled by co-producers Kris Rawlinson and Darren Bell, it’s a mostly very good listen.

The strongest numbers are, a little perversely, actually the ones which don’t feature the full choir. Michael Xavier croons perfectly through ‘The Christmas Song’ (although it is sad that there is no accompanying video of him roasting his chestnuts…), Chloe Hart and Jeremy Hart have lots of fun in a swinging ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, and there’s an interesting arrangement of’ O Holy Night’ featuring Sabrina Aloueche, Jodie Jacobs and Katie Payne (though that song will always belong to Hannah Waddingham for me).  Continue reading “Christmas music 2013”

Review: The Songs of My Life – an evening with Peter Polycarpou

“We can’t forget that they are all our children too”

Peter Polycarpou has had a long and varied career but I will always remember him as Chris Theodopolopoudos from Birds of a Feather, a show I hated yet always seemed to watch when I was younger. So seeing him in a range of roles since I’ve started theatregoing has been a case of rehabilitation of my perception of him and one which I have rather enjoyed. Thus I was quite happy to go along to a one-off concert – The Songs of My Life, an evening with Peter Polycarpou – which celebrated his life and career at the Garrick Theatre this Sunday evening with a range of special guests and choral support from London drama schools.

A proud character actor, rather than a leading man, as Polycarpou’s own programme notes start off by saying, the list of shows in which he has actually starred makes really rather impressive reading: Miss Saigon, Oklahoma!, Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Love Story… So as well as being treated with songs from these shows, sometimes with a bit of a twist – I loved being able to hear some of Howard Goodall’s Love Story again, Jos Slovick and Rebecca Trehearn filling in on ‘Phil’s Song/Summer’s Day’, a rousing ‘Bui Doi’ closed the main part of the evening, ‘It’s A Scandal’ received an amusing Cockney makeover and ‘Master of the House’ was transplanted to a Greek taverna to great effect – we also got a set of amusing anecdotes, amassed from a lifetime of experience. Performers often relish the freedom in selecting their own playlist for such shows, meaning they get the chance to sing songs their characters never did. And so Polycarpou gave his ‘Johanna’, from the West End-bound Sweeney Todd, and a quietly moving ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’. Continue reading “Review: The Songs of My Life – an evening with Peter Polycarpou”

DVD Review: Les Misérables in concert: The 25th Anniversary

“There’s a reckoning to be reckoned”

Forming the culmination of the 25th Anniversary celebrations of Les Misérables was a pair of concert versions of the show taking place at the O2 centre in Greenwich which brought together the company of companies, over 500 actors and musicians joining forces to pay tribute to this enduing classic of a show. The cast and companies of the touring production and the West End production joined with a massive choir and orchestra and a hand-picked international cast performed the lead roles in this concert presentation which was also relayed live into cinemas and later released on DVD to be enjoyed by those who chose not to go (or couldn’t get tickets).

Concert versions of shows are always a bit funny, performers singing songs to each other but looking straight out at audiences and limited opportunity for acting so they can often feel a little constrained in their presentation. Here, the cast were in full costume and projections and clips from the show used to fill in some of the gaps that the songs could not fill. And it is all really rather good if not quite the self-proclaimed “musical event of a lifetime”. Continue reading “DVD Review: Les Misérables in concert: The 25th Anniversary”