“The sage shall play the knave tonight,
The maid shall misbehave tonight”
Howard Goodall’s fruitful relationship with the National Youth Music Theatre has long been a mutually beneficial one and it was they who premiered The Kissing-Dance, his musical adaptation of Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops To Conquer back in 1998. What is truly remarkable is just who happened to be in that year-group – Sheridan Smith, Gina Beck, Simon Thomas, Alex Hassell, Michael Jibson…the list goes on. And 10 years on, they gathered once again to record Howard Goodall’s score.
The show received its professional premiere at the Jermyn Street Theatre in 2011 and in a neat twist, saw Gina Beck reprise the very same role of the headstrong Kate Hardcastle and Ian Virgo also return to the cast but graduating from scallywag Tony Lumpkin to impecunious but irresistible Charles Marlow. And having that familiarity with the score meant it was a delight to go back and delve into its melodic wonderment once again. It is recognisably Goodall to be sure but with a distinct pastoral bent to it which has a pleasingly differentiating effect.
His use of the pre-echo is here, those inimitable swirling melody lines are present but with as much influence coming from English folk music as from his own inspiration, the range of songs takes in courtly ballads, rousing pub tunes and sprawling multi-levelled finale sequences that weave in themes from the entire preceding hour. The tendency here is towards the overlong, the much needed skill of editing hasn’t quite materialised here yet and so some of the number come close to outstaying their welcome.
But it is fun to listen to these delightfully unaffected performances – Sheridan Smith’s instantly recognisable voice is always a pleasure to hear, Gina Beck’s thrilling soprano is clear as a bell and Simon Thomas’ swooningly romantic tone is perfect for the would-be suitor to Beck’s Miss Hardcastle, Charles Marlow. The album may be something of a rarity due to its limited availability but it is worth tracking down, especially for fans of Goodall, and the time would seem ripe for another revival of this classy musical.