Album Reviews: Renée Fleming – Broadway & The Quentin Dentin Show

Two new music releases – Renée Fleming tackles Broadway classics in style, and The Quentin Dentin Show releases its cast recording

“Life is what you want it to be”

No matter what you think of Renée Fleming, you can’t accuse her of resting on her laurels. At this point in her career, she could well be taking the easy route but this decade alone has seen her tackle Broadway (most recently receiving a Tony nomination for Carousel) for the first time and release an album that featured interpretations of three Björk songs. Her newest release cleaves closer to musical theatre though, and Broadway is available now from Decca Classics. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Renée Fleming – Broadway & The Quentin Dentin Show”

Album Reviews: Love on a Summer Afternoon / The Maury Yeston Songbook / There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates

This trio of album reviews covers Love on a Summer Afternoon: Songs of Sam Davis, The Maury Yeston Songbook and There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates

“You don’t know what you do to me”

There’s something of a deliciously old-school feel about Love on a Summer Afternoon: Songs of Sam Davis, these vignettes of song that recall even Noël Coward in their ability to capture mood and tone as well as telling a damn good story. David Hyde Pierce’s ‘Goodbye to Boston’ is probably the best, most heart-breaking example, Gavin Creel’s ‘Greenwich Time’ coming a close second. There’s levity and humour too, ensuring the collection doesn’t become too downbeat, but there’s definitely a musical and lyrical gift here that deserves to be more widely known. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Love on a Summer Afternoon / The Maury Yeston Songbook / There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates”

Album Reviews: Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project / Mamma Mia / Il Divo – A Musical Affair

This trio of album reviews covers Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project, Mamma Mia! The Movie Soundtrack and Il Divo – A Musical Affair

“You know I’ve got
So much that I wanna do”

Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project has an amazing list of performers, composers, and musicians behind it, all coming together to create a 2-CD set and 48-page children’s book to benefit breast cancer research, support and education. And rather wonderfully, it is an utterly gorgeous record. Brilliant jazz musicians accompany writers like Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Gwon and Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez in indulging their gentler side to create the prettiest tunes. And then a cast of dreams sing them – just listen to Raúl Esparza’s aching tenderness on ‘This Little World’, or Donna Murphy’s crystal clear ‘Lucky’ (by Stephen  Schwartz) – we should all be so lucky to be lulled to sleep this way. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project / Mamma Mia / Il Divo – A Musical Affair”

Album Review: Laura Benanti – In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention – Live At 54 Below

“She speaks in sorry sentences
Miraculous repentances”

Appearances may be deceptive but the force of personality that Laura Benanti brings to all her work, whether tweeting or tearing up the Broadway stage, makes me think that she’s just a top human. Witty and irreverent on the one, committed and forceful on the other – either way round, she’s a one for forging her own path.

And that’s in evidence on the song selection for her 54 Below cabaret show In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention. From showtunes to the showgirl herself Lana Del Rey, rewritten classics to self-penned ditties, it’s undoubtedly an eclectic mix but one that is held together by the huge warmth that Benanti exudes, whether in performance or in the (frankly hilarious) patter where she proudly details her flops. Continue reading “Album Review: Laura Benanti – In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention – Live At 54 Below”

Album Reviews: Bonnie Langford – Jazz at the Theatre / Laura Osnes – If I Tell You / Renée & Bryn: Under the Stars

The trio of album reviews takes in Bonnie Langford – Jazz at the Theatre, Laura Osnes – If I Tell You (The Songs of Maury Yeston) and Renée & Bryn: Under the Stars

“Who would think it astounds us
Simply naming their names?”

Who doesn’t love a bit of Bonnie Langford? Her 2003 album Jazz at the Theatre does exactly what it says on the tin, mixing the worlds of musical theatre and jazz to great effect. So bossa nova rhythms drive Cy Coleman’s ‘Use What You Got’ from The Life, pacey bass-driven romp through ‘If I Were A Bell’ from Guys and Dolls, and there’s a delicate skip through Fiddler’s ‘Sunrise, Sunset’.

Sondheim and Lloyd Webber get their name checked with tender takes on ‘Sooner or Later’ and ‘Unexpected Song’ and I loved the straight rendition of Me and My Girl’s ‘Once You Lose Your Heart’. Throughout are sprinkled standards like ‘Old Devil Moon’ and ‘My Funny Valentine’ which also work well but the less said about this version of ‘God Bless the Child’ the better though… Continue reading “Album Reviews: Bonnie Langford – Jazz at the Theatre / Laura Osnes – If I Tell You / Renée & Bryn: Under the Stars”

Review: Death Takes A Holiday, Charing Cross

“I’m Death. 
‘And you’re on holiday?’”

The ways in which the titles of shows are worked into the script are a source of endless amusement and new musical Death Takes A Holiday is no exception, pointing up as it does the ridiculousness of the show’s conceit. Based on the 1924 Italian play La Morte in Vacanza, which has been adapted for the silver screen a few times, most recently in the Brad Pitt stinker Meet Joe Black, Peter Stone and Thomas Meehan’s book tells the story of what happens when Death falls head over heels for an Italian duke’s daughter and so decides to take a couple of days annual leave to follow through,

Posing as a Russian prince, he joins the aristocratic family at their Lake Garda country pile, ostensibly to learn about human emotions but truth is, there’s only one he’s that keen on. And given that the main object of his study, Grazia, is a fan of the moody gothic look – despite being engaged to someone else – there’s little doubt as to whether will be alone when he returns to the day job at the end of the weekend. It’s a curious lack of dramatic imperative for a show running over two hours, especially since there’s the potential to have a proper love triangle, instead Maury Yeston’s expansive score is left to fill the gaps.  Continue reading “Review: Death Takes A Holiday, Charing Cross”

Review: Grand Hotel, Southwark Playhouse

“Come begin in old Berlin”

Finally, a traverse staging that feels properly justified. It’s still highly dependent on where you sit – despite being a little late, I was able to secure a great vantage point from the middle of the back row from where the full length of the stage for Grand Hotel was suitably visible and I was glad for it. Thom Southerland’s musicals at the Southwark Playhouse have become something of an annual fixture now, becoming big hits for them (Parade) even if they haven’t always floated my boat (Titanic…).

Based on Vicki Baum’s Grand Hotel, the book by Luther Davis swirls around the residents of this Berlin establishment in 1928 over one fateful weekend. A grande dame of a faded ballerina, a typist dreaming of Hollywood, an aristocrat who has lost his fortune, a businessman facing ruin, a man who has little time left to live, their stories and more intertwine elegantly and fluidly in a constantly moving state of flux which captures some of the unpredictability and increasing darkness of interwar Germany. Continue reading “Review: Grand Hotel, Southwark Playhouse”

Album Review: Kim Criswell – Back To Before

“Where are they now, those women who stared from the mirror?”

I saw Kim Criswell for the first time onstage earlier this month in Carrie and whilst I may not have loved the show, her shimmering soprano and performance was a stand-out for me. It happened to be an evening with a Q&A afterwards too and she came across as an absolute hoot – pint in hand, regaling us all with tales from the past, I instantly wanted to know more about who she was. So where else to turn first but to her 1999 CD Back To Before.

 A glimpse at the track-listing doesn’t immediately show a huge sense of adventurousness. Four Lloyd Webber tracks, Oliver! and Les Mis elsewhere, it’s not really the stuff to make you sit up and pay attention. That happens when Criswell opens her mouth – whether fabulously wrestling Evita’s ‘Rainbow High’ into submission or dealing out a bold and brassy ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’, there’s something remarkable about the forceful control of her vocal. Continue reading “Album Review: Kim Criswell – Back To Before”

Album Review: Madalena Alberto – Don’t Cry For Me

“The answer was here all the time”

Capitalising on her long-running stint in the UK tour of Evita which culminated in a stint at the Dominion Theatre, Madalena Alberto’s 2014 album Don’t Cry For Me relies heavily on that role, featuring three songs from that show as well as using it for its title. Her versions of ‘Don’t Cry For Argentina’ and ‘You Must Love Me’ are naturally both very good but it is the heartfelt ‘Lament’ that really shows how good she was in the role, slowly building to a fiercely emotional climax with a heartbreaking finale.

Elsewhere she delves further into the world of musical theatre, tackling standards like Cabaret’s ‘Maybe This Time’ and lesser known work like Jekyll and Hyde’s ‘Someone Like You’ (in which she starred at the Union) with an equal gusto, and a nicely restrained (and beautifully arranged ) wander through Blood Brothers’ ‘Easy Terms’ brings a lovely inquisitive quality to the storytelling, reflecting Alberto’s roots as a singer-songwriter of no little quality. Continue reading “Album Review: Madalena Alberto – Don’t Cry For Me”