“See ya later I’m going to the front of the thee-AY-ter”
Full disclosure, I’ve been listening to this version of Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell for more years than I care to remember and before anyone really knew what luminaries many of these performers would become – Clive Rowe, Ruthie Henshall, John Barrowman…though perhaps we’ll skip past Darren Day. Using the composer’s original arrangements and conducted by himself, it is perhaps a tad traditional for the taste of some but for me, it hit the marks from top to bottom.
Henshall going full-on Mae West in a vampy ‘Turn Back O Man’, Elisabeth Sastre and Jacqueline Dankworth complementing each other well in a beautifully harmonised ‘By My Side’, Day and Glyn Kerslake’s amusing romp through ‘All For The Best’, it’s all highly slick and professional. The air of reverence is strong throughout, mark Paul Manuel leading ‘All Good Gifts’ or Dankworth’s ‘Day By Day’ for example, classically done almost note for note from the sheet music.
This does perhaps mean it can seem a little staid at times but personally I like the fidelity to the music as written, there’s versions enough elsewhere for a greater sense of originality and it just means that here, there’s just the joy of unalloyed pure melodic singing, John Barr and Clive Rowe letting the delicacy of ‘On The Willows’ just wash over us with great beauty. An unexpectedly timeless and still powerfully effective account of a grand score.