Album Reviews: Sleeping Beauty the Musical / 9 to 5 the Musical / Girlfriends

This trio of musical theatre album reviews features Sleeping Beauty the Musical, 9 to 5 the Musical – West End Cast Recording and Girlfriends (London Musical Theatre Orchestra)

“When life seems uphill, remember you’re still ascending”

A bit of googling about Joel Harper-Jackson (what, you don’t do it too…?) came up with this studio cast recording of Sleeping Beauty the Musical. A musical adaptation of the fairytale with book and lyrics by Ian Curran and music by Simon Hanson and Peter Vint, it is a rather amiable treatment of the story and a perfectly serviceable set of tunes. Truth be told, this isn’t a score to really set the world alight but then not everything has to, especially when allied to as classic a tale as this. Harper-Jackson and Maria Coyne both impress as the central couple of Prince Perrault and Princess Aurora whose growing relationship is the cornerstone of the show and ultimately quite affecting here.

If a bit of Dolly is what you crave then good news, as the release of 9 to 5 the Musical – West End Cast Recording is here to satisfy your urges. Featuring the original West End cast which included Caroline Sheen as Violet since Louise Redknapp injured herself and was unable to open the show, Sheen, Amber Davies and Natalie McQueen are in fine voice throughout as the three women driving the show with their cups of ambition in a world full of 1980s misogyny. The irrepressible Bonnie Langford – a highlight of the show itself – loses none of her scene-stealing charisma on record and the only complaint I really have is that it is a live rather than a studio recording, I’ve no desire to listen to audiences whoop in the privacy of my own home.

I didn’t go along to the LMTO’s concert version of Howard Goodall’s early musical Girlfriends as though I am a big fan of Goodall’s music, this was a show that didn’t do it for me when I saw it at the Union Theatre back in 2014. And listening to the cast recording from that evening, I think I made the right decision. There are moments such as Act 2 opener ‘Before the War’ where Lucie Jones and Lauren Samuels duet beautifully and soaring harmonies from the company match some of Goodall’s best work. Elsewhere though, the show suffers from its focus on romantic travails when the entirety of women’s experience in the Second World War is up for grabs. Dramatically, this feels like a missed opportunity and musically, the show suffers from Goodall still figuring out how to balance thematic cohesion with repetitiveness.

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