Album Reviews: Singing You Home / Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again / Vanara the Musical

This trio of album reviews covers Singing You Home: Children’s Songs for Family Reunification, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018 Film Soundtrack) and Vanara the Musical

“Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores”

Regardless of your politics, Singing You Home: Children’s Songs for Family Reunification is a really rather lovely album of bilingual children’s songs. But in this day and age nothing is not political and the current US administration’s policy of child separation is a genuine atrocity that it is hard to know how to respond. Laura Benanti had the nous to conceive this project though and produced it with Mary-Mitchell Campbell and Lynn Pinto, and a whole host of the great and good of the American musical theatre. Thus this is more than just your usual set of lullabies – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mandy Gonzalez crooning on the Mexican song ‘Cielito Lindo’, Audra McDonald shining on Jason Robert Brown’s ‘Singing You Home’, Kristin Chenoweth’s ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, well worth the investment for this uniquely exceptional cause.

Whereas I’m not sure anyone should ever listen to the first Mamma Mia soundtrack, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is actually a much more successful record. It benefits, I think, from having to delve a little deeper into the ABBA songbook so there are fewer tracks here that we’re quite so intimately familiar with. Thus the tenderly harmonised delights of ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ and  ‘My Love, My Life’ have that much more of an emotional wallop, so too the humourous whip through of ‘Angel Eyes’. But even something like ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ shines under this treatment especially with the backing vocals in the chorus turned up. Plus there’s Cher!

Last up is this queerest of things. Vanara the Musical is written by Gianluca Cucchiara with lyrics by Andrew James Whelan and book by Michael Conley and is nominally a science-fiction tale set in a dystopian future where a new Ice Age is fast approaching but the two remaining tribes on the planet are too busy arguing with each other. What is odd about it is how classic Cucchiara’s score is, traditional musical theatre balladry and slightly questionable tribal rhythms, they sound just fine but perhaps just a little dated, especially given the setting. But sung like they are on this concept album, by the likes of Rob Houchen, Eva Noblezada and Madalena Alberto, they certainly have a seductive, easy-listening quality.

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