Album Review: The Woman In White (2004 Original London Cast Recording)


“There’s only one thing one has to have
One has to have no shame”

Hitting the West End just before I moved to London and well before I started blogging, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman In White has the ignominy of being one of his less successful shows. With lyricist David Zippel and book-writer Charlotte Jones, this adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ novel failed to capture the ongoing attention of UK audiences, shuttering after 19 months, but downright flopped on Broadway where it lasted just 3. 

The Woman In White has now been announced as Thom Southerland’s major project over Christmas, running for 12 weeks at the Charing Cross Theatre with Laura Pitt-Pulford onboard, and it got me to thinking that I hadn’t actually ever listened to the show at all. The cast recording was made on the opening night and as the show underwent considerable redevelopment even whilst playing, the ending on this record does not reflect the ending that audiences saw in theatres.

I have a certain amount of affection for the selection of Lloyd Webber’s music that I listened to as a kid but it is hard not to feel that the majority of his output this millenium has been somewhat stodgy. And though there are moments of real elegance here – the harmonies on ‘Trying Not To Notice’, and Maria Friedman’s impassioned work on the self-lacerating ‘All For Laura’, too much of the music sounds uninspired and in some cases, highly derivative.

‘Evermore Without You’ might as well be titled as a leftover from Sunset Boulevard, ‘I Believe My Heart’ echoes any of Christine’s duets from Phantom and to exacerbate the problem, when things get a bit more original they go way off-piste – the faux-rusticana of ‘Lammastide’ is just painful. Michael Crawford’s ostensibly comic numbers are way off base, though I can see how they might have their fans – all in all, I’d say Southerland’s got quite the job on his hands but if anyone can do it, he can.

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