Album Review: John Owen-Jones – Bring Him Home

“Give me this moment, this momentous moment”

I was excited by the prospect of a new John Owen-Jones album but the reality of Bring Him Home – A Collection of Musical Favourites was, I have to say, a little disappointing. For it is something of a greatest hits affair, collecting together tracks from three of his previous albums – Unmasked, Rise and his self-titled album and adding in just the three new songs.

Those tracks are Miss Saigon’s ‘Why, God, Why?’, West Side Story’s ‘Maria’ and ‘Suddenly’, written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil especially for the filmed version of Les Misérables. Only the last of these has any real interest as something particularly new, although fans will enjoy the personal connection Owen-Jones has to the others (drama school audition song, and first show he was in onstage). Continue reading “Album Review: John Owen-Jones – Bring Him Home”

Album Review: Nadim Naaman – Sides

“Livin’ for the moment’s rewards”

I did like Nadim Naaman’s first album We All Want The Same but with its compositions stretching over a decade of Naaman’s songwriting, it didn’t quite have the cohesion to show off his emerging talents. For his second CD though, he’s gone all-out to demonstrate the depths of both sides to him as a musician – opting for a double-length album, half the songs are musical theatre numbers which have received his own spin, and the other half are original songs written over the last year. Thus Sides reaches with larger ambition, and succeeds.

Naaman has a marvelous showman quality to his voice but it’s beautiful to hear him bring out all the colours he can – the sense of building excitement in The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s ‘Out There’, the driving, the driving swagger of The Fix’s One, Two, Three complemented by its tenderly heartfelt break. A jaunty ‘Moving Too Fast’ sees him looking back to one of his first professional roles as The Last Five Years’ Jamie whereas his current gig – Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera – is acknowledged with a startling but hugely effective Latin-inflected treatment of its title song, accompanied by the glorious richness of Celinde Schoenmaker’s voice.

Continue reading “Album Review: Nadim Naaman – Sides”

Album Review: Annalene Beechey – Close Your Eyes

“What do you see, you people gazing at me, you see a doll on a music box”

Annalene Beechey is one of those performers whom I have seen a fair bit but never actually on the stage in a show, instead she has been a regular on the cabaret scene, supporting fellow ‘Christine’ Rebecca Caine or showcasing new musical theatre writing in theatres and on boats. So I thought I’d give her album Close Your Eyes a spin to see how it stacked up and it came up good!

What works so well for me is her song selection, she steers clear from too much rehashing of familiar standards and instead chooses to highlight the work of the composers with whom she has built up a connection whether personally or just through their music and it shows. From the newbies like Grant Olding – the gorgeous ‘Hannah’s Dream’ and Scott Alan – the fragile beauty of ‘Always/Goodnight’ to the more seasoned hands of Stephens Sondheim and Schwartz –an Into the Woods medley and ‘Lion Tamer’ from The Magic Show respectively, Beechey’s love of the genre shines through with insightful interpretations that dig deep into these songs and what they mean to her. Continue reading “Album Review: Annalene Beechey – Close Your Eyes”

Review: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Donmar Warehouse

“Can I get a definition please?”

A musical comedy at the Donmar? From the moment you enter the auditorium and see how Christopher Oram’s design has been translated down to the tiniest of details to create a school gymnasium, it is clear we’re in for something different and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a self-confessed scratching of an itch to do something fun for director Jamie Lloyd, is just that. Based around the tradition of spelling competitions at US high schools, it follows a group of six kids aiming to win this contest and qualify for the place at the national final. It also takes the step of inviting audience participation, four people were selected to take part and so the first third of the show is taken up with the early rounds of the competition and the increasingly amusing ways in which they made sure that timely exits were secured from the newcomers.

Originally conceived by Rachel Feldman and with music and lyrics from William Finn (I’ve never seen any of his shows, but a song from Falsettoland, What More Can I Say, is fast becoming a cabaret staple – Simon Burke, Reed Sinclair and London Gay Men’s Chorus just last year – and is utterly gorgeous) and book by Rachel Sheinkin, the show takes the form of a spelling competition but as each child takes their turn to spell, a flashback gives us the opportunity to learn more about these characters, their youthful angsts and ambitions as they struggle to decide who they really are in a world that doesn’t consider them normal. This was a preview performance from Tuesday 15th February, watched in the midst of a large group, not all of whom I sadly got the chance to talk to. Continue reading “Review: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Donmar Warehouse”