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Thursday, 4 February 2021

REVIEW: Studio Cast Ep of 'In the Willows'

In 2019 the new musical In the Willows toured a dozen or so UK Venues to good reviews and although I missed the tour, I was delighted to hear the new six track EP that has just been released featuring some of the touring cast including one of my favourite musical comedy actors Clive Rowe as Badger. Written by P Burton- Morgan with music and lyrics by Pippa Cleary (who also wrote the musical version of The Secret diary of Adrian Mole) and composer Kieran Merrick, it is a modern energetic tale based on the Kenneth Grahame’s famous novel but transposing the characters to a British comprehensive school, The Willows, and the surrounding area. It gives the story a fresh real life setting and challenges a young audience to find their own voice and be open about who they are and their past. It is not to be confused with Julian Fellows Wind in the Willows Musical which is a more traditional retelling of the original stories.

Of course, on a six track EP the full story is hidden, and the characters hinted at rather than fleshed out, but it whets your appetite to see the full show when it next tours or transfers into the West End. No doubt during lockdown many new musicals have been developed and will be seeking finance to be fully staged but this one is surely ahead of the queue having already toured smaller UK venues and the EP shines a light on the exciting and distinctive musical style which seems to borrow from Hamilton and Six, two of the most recent West End stage successes.

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.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

REVIEW: Oklahoma! – 2019 Broadway Cast Recording

For those of us not lucky enough to make it over to Broadway, our best insight into the delights on stage across the pond are the cast recordings released. This year, the hottest show in town happens to be a show written in 1943 and reborn in 2019, Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!which has been entirely reimagined to great acclaim. Let’s not forget that in its day, the show’s original production was considered groundbreaking, so it seems fitting that some 76 or so years later, Daniel Fish’s revival is being seen so as well. With the whole show re orchestrated to exploit the country and western root of the plot, it brings a refreshing new atmosphere to the show - and just you wait for the Dream Ballet!

So we sat down and listened to the cast album, imagining ourselves in the Circle in the Square Theater, NYC. 

Almost everyone is familiar with the opening of Oklahoma!, whether by choice or not, we all know Curly’s famous first words of “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” and we have come to expect them accompanied by lush traditional orchestration but Daniel Fish’s production eschews tradition wherever possible whilst still maintaining the glorious essence of Oklahoma!. Damon Daunno’s Curly is accompanied by a simple cowboy’s guitar and this simplicity in the orchestration (in terms of number of instruments at least) is continued throughout much of the show. “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top” has rarely sounded more like a love song, and the overall impact of it finds a perfect balance between a 2019 country number and a classic musical theatre tune. 

Friday, 11 March 2016

ALBUM REVIEW: Hamilton, Original Broadway Cast Recording

While at the moment, the show can only be seen on Broadway (for those who are fortunate enough to be able to spend up to $300 for a single ticket), for the majority of people, we are limited to this album to involve us in the musical phenomenon. Anyone who has heard it will understand the cultural significance. 

This is the first hip hop/rap musical to ever grace Broadway. David Cote of New 
York’s ‘Time Out’ described Hamilton as “a sublime conjunction of radio-ready hip-hop (as well as R&B, Britpop and trad showstoppers)”, and I totally agree. This cast recording is explosive. 

Saturday, 8 August 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Something Rotten! original cast recording

Something Rotten is one big comedic ode to 16th Century performance, centred around William Shakespeare. It’s fun and playful; filled with intelligent comedic writing that isn’t too outrageous and strikes the balance between musical brilliance and entertainment perfectly. 

There’s nothing offensive that might upset you, Something Rotten is tame; free of foul language and adult topics, so it’s suitable for kids and adults alike.


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: World premier cast recording of The Bodyguard the Musical, starring Alexandra Burke

I have not seen The Bodyguard film, however, my understanding of it is that it’s fundamentally a love story between international superstar Rachel Marron (played by Whitney Houston), and her bodyguard (Kevin Costner).

It almost goes without saying that Whitney Houston is one of the strongest female vocalists in her genre, but I must preface this review with a warning to anyone who chooses to purchase this soundtrack. Do NOT compare The Bodyguard’s leading lady Alexandra Burke to Whitney Houston, or the entire soundtrack will do nothing but underwhelm and disappoint you…

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