Album Review: Imaginary

Released by SimG Records, the cast recording for the National Youth Music Theatre’s Imaginary is just a lovely thing indeed 

“You have to grow older…but you don’t have to grow up”

Commissioned, produced and performed by the National Youth Music Theatre, new musical Imaginary had a short run at The Other Palace last summer, during which this live recording was made. Proceeds from this record release will be ploughed back into NYMT as they are a charity with no core funding, despite the exceptional work they do with so many.

With book & lyrics by Timothy Knapman and music & lyrics by Stuart Matthew Price, Imaginary’s concept is a beautifully simple one and hidden in plain sight, as Sam struggles to deal with starting secondary school and what that means for his only real friend Milo and the truth about their connection. And in the fashion of all the best kids’ shows, there’s much for the grown-up kids as well (and I’d wager they’ll be the ones wiping more tears away).  Continue reading “Album Review: Imaginary”

Album Review: Before After (2016 Studio Cast Recording)

“What’s a few more minutes to wait…a little longer”

 
Confession time – I’ve had this album for an unforgivably long time, mainly because I managed to forget about it, despite the fact I was meant to be reviewing it. D’oh, and sorry Mr G. And more fool me, because Before After is just lovely, a tragic but hopeful love story, an unconventional timeline and swooning piano and strings orchestrations throughout, it might as well have been tailor-made for me!

Written by Stuart Matthew Price and Timothy Knapman, Before After follows the love story between Ami and Ben through all its trials, as the meet-cute we’re presented with at the top of Act 1 is actually at the mid-point of their story. She recognises him as the love of her life; he hasn’t a clue who she is due to a car accident that wiped his memory; and though she keeps schtum, she asks him out for a drink to see what might happen. Continue reading “Album Review: Before After (2016 Studio Cast Recording)”

Album Review: Richard Beadle – Songs (2012)

“If we make it through together”

Songs was the debut album from Richard Beadle, a songwriter, composer and conductor of television and production music, as well as a well-established musical supervisor/director on a wide range of West End shows from Betty Blue Eyes, The Bodyguard to the forthcoming The Girls. I actually attended a concert showcasing Beadle’s music back in 2013 but it has taken me a little time to get round to properly listening to the album.

His style seems to sit somewhere equidistant between ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ musical theatre writing – the nervy angst of ‘The Wedding Song’, sung perfectly by Julie Atherton, owes a debt to Jason Robert Brown whereas Rachael Wooding’s beautiful declaration of love in ‘Here We Are’ has a much more classic feel to it. And what comes across these 12 tracks is a pleasing sense of confidence in musicality, these are songs that stand as well individually as in the musicals from which they come. Continue reading “Album Review: Richard Beadle – Songs (2012)”

Album Review: Parade (Original London Cast 2007)

“Call for justice! We need justice!
Beat the bastard! Kill the bum!”

Based on historical events from the turn of the last century in Atlanta, Georgia, Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s Parade has been something of a slow-burning theatrical success – its original 1998 Broadway run criminally short, ending way before it won 2 Tonys, but later tours and overseas productions cementing its reputation as a sterling piece of new musical theatre. In the UK, Southwark Playhouse had a grand production in 2011 but 2007 saw the Donmar deliver a work of small-scale genius which was captured in its entirety on this double-disc recording.

Perhaps not the most likely of subjects for a piece of musical theatre, the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank – Bertie Carvel in the role here – for the rape and murder of a 13 year old employee Mary Phagan benefits hugely from the musical treatment. The trial caused a big media sensation in the US and forced an examination of the (not so) latent anti-Semitism in this southern state offering a wide range of opportunities to explore musical styles, estimably executed by Thomas Murray’s 9-strong band playing David Cullen’s new orchestrations.  Continue reading “Album Review: Parade (Original London Cast 2007)”

Album Review: A Spoonful of Sherman (Original London Cast Recording)

“It’s a world of wonder
A world of worth”

It’s quite something when the highlight of a show that includes excerpts from such perennial classics as Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Jungle Book ends up being a pair of songs from a film that comparatively few would have heard of – The Slipper and the Rose. But such is the depth of song-writing talent in the three generations of the Sherman family celebrated in A Spoonful of Sugar, the Original London Cast Recording of which has just been released by SimG Records

From famed Tin Pan Alley composer Al Sherman to his sons Robert and Richard who became the most successful song-writing partnership in the history of Hollywood through to Robert’s son Robbie, an established writer in his own right, this revue covers nearly a century of popular song-writing by one family and the astonishing breadth of the musical legacy that they have left, and are still leaving, behind – this cabaret was indeed created by Robbie himself. Continue reading “Album Review: A Spoonful of Sherman (Original London Cast Recording)”

Album Review: The West End goes MAD for Christmas

“I don’t need to ask for much this Christmas”

One of the more worthwhile festive releases this year is also pleasingly one of the more interesting. The Make A Difference Trust brings together the British entertainment community and its audiences to raise funds to support people living with HIV and AIDS and with The West End Goes MAD For Christmas, has brought together a host of new musical theatre champions to offer up a compilation of Christmas songs that offer a fascinating alternative to the age old carols and standards that proliferate at this time of year.

And producers Nikki & Joe Davison at Auburn Jam Records have done a brilliant job in matching composers to performers across the eight songs, curating pre-existing tracks and new, and shining a light on some serious talent. The plaintive simplicity of Stuart Matthew Price’s self-penned ‘This Christmas’ is characteristic of much of his oeuvre of classic songwriting, Gina Beck’s crystalline soprano dances beautifully around the timeless melody of Alexander S Bermange’s ‘Praying For You’ and Nadim Naaman‘s ‘A Soldier’s Christmas’ treads an equally emotive path, sung charmingly by Gerónimo Rauch and Naaman himself.
 

Continue reading “Album Review: The West End goes MAD for Christmas”

Review: The Confession Room, St James Theatre

“Welcome to the room where your problems are heard”

In this cut-throat theatre world, one takes the opportunity to celebrate new musical theatre writing where one can so there was little hesitation in booking for this one-off concert performance of Dan Looney’s The Confession Room at the St James Theatre’s downstairs studio space. I actually came across Looney as part of an evening celebrating another writer John Kristian last month so it was nice to be able join the dots a little here and see some of his work given theatrical life.

This show received a concept recording from SimG Productions which was released on CD last year when a production also played the Landor for a night and tonight’s show, directed by Paul Foster with musical direction from Tim Evans, used the music from the recording along with excerpts of Patrick Wilde’s book to entertain an audience who’d opted to miss (the first half at least) the theatre of the World Cup final for some genuine musical theatre.  Continue reading “Review: The Confession Room, St James Theatre”

Review: A Spoonful of Sugar, St James

“Everyone was glad
What a time they had
They were so happy they came”

Nostalgia can be a lovely thing to bathe in and when it comes to the music of the Sherman Brothers, there’s an ocean of it. Robert and Richard Sherman can lay claim to being one of the most successful songwriting partnerships ever, taking Hollywood by storm with such iconic soundtracks as Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to name just a few, in a career that has stretched over 60 years, even 90 if one includes their father Al who was a noted songwriter in his own right.

To really make it a family affair, A Spoonful of Sherman is hosted by Robert’s son Robbie who acts as compère throughout, drawing the narrative line from the beginning of the twentieth century right up to the present day as of course, he is a composer himself as well. Sadly, Sherman Junior is probably the weakest link of the evening, the unique insight that he could have brought to bear is largely conspicuous by its absence and he feels ill-suited to the task, one can tell this is not his natural oeuvre. Continue reading “Review: A Spoonful of Sugar, St James”

Album Review: The A-Z of Mrs P – Original London Cast Recording

“Could you ever be happy mama?”

In a musical theatre landscape that often seems risk-averse when it comes to new writing, even in the face of the recent efforts of old hands Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice both closing early, it is always pleasing to hear new voices being championed. And that is exactly what producer Neil Marcus did in securing idiosyncratic British singer-songwriter Gwyneth Herbert to write the music and lyrics for The A-Z of Mrs P, along with Diane Samuels for the book. The show recently premiered at the Southwark Playhouse in a production directed by Sam Buntrock, and the soundtrack has now been released by SimG Productions.

Herbert had never seen a musical before starting to write this show five years ago and there’s a definite freshness to the way she has approached the material. The show was inspired by the autobiographies of Phyllis Pearsall, a woman who led a complex personal life but is best known for mapping and creating the famous A-Z streetmap of London that so many still use today. Her relationship with her map publisher father was a troubled beast though and so the canvas of the story widens out beyond the streets of London, to delve into the family history of Mrs P and how it proved a driving force for her whole life. Continue reading “Album Review: The A-Z of Mrs P – Original London Cast Recording”