“A place, where nobody dared to go”
And from the musicals that will be on at the Southwark Playhouse to one which has already played. The glitter and roller-skates of Xanadu
took up residence at the tail end of 2015 and was a hugely enjoyable camp-fest of a show – tongue not so much in cheek as licking lips lasciviously whilst adjusting leg-warmers. An unexpected Tony-nominated success on Broadway in 2007, this cast recording dates back to that production and so features the rather marvellous Cheyenne Jackson.
If I believed in guilty pleasures then this would be the thing but what was heightened in the theatre due to tanned thighs, clouds of chiffon and raucous roller-skating doesn’t quite come across on record here. For listening to this record ultimately depends on how much you like the oeuvre of Olivia Newton-John and ELO and little more besides, as little is done to many of the songs and the orchestrations that they receive here are pitifully thin compared to the originals as they inevitably are.
Jackson’s hapless hunk Sonny is undoubtedly appealing but there’s a real caustic edge to Kerry Butler’s Clio/Kira, the goddess who helps him to build the ultimate roller-disco, in her savage Newton-John impersonation. And there’s nothing unpleasant about their duets together, tracks like ‘Suddenly’ and ‘Suspended in Time’, they just end up being versions of the inoffensive pop songs that they are.
It’s left to the likes of Mary Testa and Jackie Hoffman as evil sisters Melpomene and Calliope to transfer the campness directly into the music, their takes on ‘Evil Woman’ and ‘Strange Magic’ raising at least a chuckle throughout as they’re allowed to strain at the MOR leash. Otherwise, sadly, you’re best off just listening to your Best of Olivia Newton-John and ELO if it’s their music you’re craving.
“I know all the odds and even so…”
One of the temptations with cast recordings, and something that’s been facilitated by the dawning of the digital age, is to make a playlist of your favourite songs and then forget about the others. I am terrible for doing this – it’s why I’m word perfect on only half of Wicked – and yet I never seen to stop. If/Then is a good example of this – the edited highlights on my iPhone give the impression of a great show whereas the reality is more just good.
Predictably, these excerpts mostly include Idina Menzel’s inimitable vocal, around which Tom Kitt’s score was crafted. The delicate duet of ‘Here I Go’ with the lovely James Snyder, the stirring ‘You Learn To Live Without’, the irresistible melodic force of ‘Always Starting Over’, she’s so at home in this world of emotionally swirling tunes that it is impossible not to get swept up with her, especially in the last song’s slow-building climax. Continue reading “Album Review: If/Then (Original Broadway Cast Recording)”
“I’d lie to say I’m never sometimes always thinking of you”
I couldn’t do New York without taking the opportunity to see Idina Menzel and in lieu of battling the crowds at Times Square, tickets were booked for her starring role in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s If/Then. Having had the soundtrack for a wee while now, and being a big fan thereof, I pretty much knew what I was letting myself in for, meaning there was none of the apparent confusion that blighted much of the initial critical response which found the show hard to follow.
Is it confusing? I don’t think so. It’s tricksy yes, as a twin set of narratives follow two different paths that newly-divorced Elizabeth could take as she moves to New York City to start her life anew. Pushing 40, she feels the clock ticking both personally and professionally and so as Liz it is the former that takes precedent and as Beth, the latter. The same friends and colleagues appear in each strand too, with different experiences so you do have to pay some attention but that’s no real hardship. Continue reading “Review: If/Then, Richard Rodgers Theatre”