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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.

Monday, 30 September 2019

REVIEW: Tootsie - Original Broadway Cast Recording

Tootsie is the latest in a long line of successful musical adaptations. This year, it stormed the Tony Awards with 11 nominations, winning for Best Book of a Musical and Best Leading Actor, and is headed to the West End in 2021. The original film starred Dustin Hoffman and was revolves around a soap opera, whereas the stage version focuses on a musical. Leading man Michael adopts a female persona, Dorothy, to bag the best role, and hysteria ensues as Dorothy befriends Julie, who can’t stand Michael.

David Yazbek's score begins with a big, brassy Overture and vibrant Opening Number but by the second half the electricity wanes, resulting in a somewhat lacklustre finale. As with any composer, you can hear Yazbek's classic motifs and progressions, with homages to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Full Monty.

One of the highlights, which will definitely resonate with anyone with a creative streak is What's Gonna Happen, brilliantly sung by Sarah Stiles. The song tracks the downward spiral of struggling actress Sandy, overthinking every second of her castings. It is a relentless patter song, crammed full of witty lyrics, tricky rhythms and numerous key changes.

Monday, 17 September 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: 'The Quentin Dentin Show' Original Cast Recording

Musical Theatre concept albums are a powerful way of testing the interest and showing the potential of new works for the stage and were very successfully used by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber in the seventies to launch both Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. Of course there have been concept albums since that have failed to grab the listeners imagination. The challenge of reviewing an album like this without having seen the show or without a script or detailed narrative is to try and piece together the characters and story line from tunes alone. The question that poses is whether the music strong enough and the fragments of story enough for the listener to want more.

Writer Henry Carpenter and Originating Producer Hannah Elsy just about manage to tempt me to want to see the show in its next incarnation with their concept album which contains fifteen tracks running to around thirty five minutes of music. Carpenter's writing seems to delve back into a broad range of musical styles from the fifties to the nineties with simple orchestrations and clear vocals and borrows from many styles of that period. The idea seems to be that an alien has arrived on earth, presumably having absorbed these musical influences over the space airwaves and seeks to persuade the humans he meets that he can make them happy. It is a sort of Dr Faustus meets The Rocky Horror show, creating a bizarre, absurd world where Quentin Dentin seeks to offer happiness for their souls by reaching out to them through a radio show and then a TV game show. The overall feel is of a Richard O'Brien narrated clipped vocals with bursts of rock and roll, rock opera, Abba, pop, Conga and techno sounds, all with a strong drum rhythm. It starts to feel like a singalong party atmosphere. This style is what made The Rocky Horror Show the cult show it is today but it was the performances and outrageous characterisations that made that a success and we only get a sense of that from the album of two characters.
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