Wednesday, 19 August 2020

REVIEW: Mascherato the Musical Original Studio Cast Recording

You’d be forgiven if you listened to ‘Mascherato: The Musical’ and assumed it was already a full-scale, polished, Broadway musical.

But it’s not.

In 2015 ‘Mascherato' was conceived by Michael Elderkin (book by James Willett) and workshopped two years later exhibiting a show which had blossomed into this stunning album; recorded with a twenty-two piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios it features a cast almost as impressive as the score itself!

In the heart of 18th century Venice we meet Luca and Elena, and follow as they fall in love against the backdrop of the thriving carnival. However, the pair are torn apart as Venice sinks into war against the Ottoman Empire. When the conflict finally ends, and the empire proves victorious, the two lovers must fight against fate to be reunited.

There is enough dialogue between the tracks to weave you through the Venetian streets with the array of characters Elderkin and Willett have assembled; so vivid and varied are the people who populate the story, it’s as if we’ve fallen upon an Ashman/Menken masterpiece that never was - though it stands clearly on its own two feet as new and intensely visual.

Michael Elderkin’s music and lyrics do not falter in being velvet to the ear - forever evoking diverse, colourful musical landscapes that soar as the story unfolds. We’re witnessing epic cinematic work here - tugging at the heartstrings one moment with duets such as ‘Go and See The World’ and ‘In a Single Moment’ before more dramatic, pace-changing adventures in wholesome proportions.

Though unfair to judge from just this concept album, James Willett’s book is suitably ambitious and promises a demanding production in its locations, transitions and storytelling modes. Undoubtedly the magic pixie dust in the DNA of this musical duo feels more than capable of addressing the demands of a fairly complex story and imaginable demand on high production values.

As if a roll call of some of the leading Musical Theatre talent around, the cast clocking-in on this recording is spectacular! Rob Houchen as Luca and Katy Treharne as Elena dig deep into the central characters to convince us of their love. The village of additional voice talent and ensemble work decorate the lavish work that has gone into this new musical and not one aspect shines lesser than the other.

I want to see ‘Mascherato’ now! It’s a story of something bigger and greater than what we are ourselves. It has the colour, warmth and escapism of the best of what we love in musicals and the familiar-yet-new resonance of what Ashman and Menken did for the Disney renaissance. With absolute conviction ‘Mascherato' carves its own slice of Italian joy which leaves me in an exuberant musical afterglow!

Mascherato is now available on all music streaming services (iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc.) 

Review by Justin Williams

Rating: ★★★★★
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