A trio of quick London cast recordings – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, Heathers and Calendar Girls
“For a greasy little nobody, you do have good bone structure”
I was delighted to see a belated West End transfer for this lovely new musical by Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary. I’ve loved every step of its journey and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ (Original London Cast Recording) proves the perfect accompaniment as it captures so much of the energy of this most British of tales and sparky performances from the likes of John Hopkins and the luminous Kelly Price.
I didn’t however make it to Heathers, it just not appealing to me at all. With Heathers (Original West End Cast Recording), the opportunity to listen to this high school musical is now ours but I have to say, its charms elude me. There’s a fatal mismatch between the darkness of the source material (it really is a brutal film) and the breeziness of Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy’s pop-rock score that not even the quality of Carrie Hope Fletcher, Jodie Steele, Sophie Isaacs and Jamie Muscato’s strong performances can overcome.
And I thought I’d pay another visit to Yorkshire for Calendar Girls (Original London Recording) to see whether it stands the test of time. It proved an amiable if short-lived presence in the West End and listening to it again, I’d argue that there’s a gentleness to it that doesn’t quite linger long enough. Gary Barlow’s tunes are undeniably pretty but ultimately, they don’t really call out to be listened to over and again.
“If we make it through together”
Songs was the debut album from Richard Beadle, a songwriter, composer and conductor of television and production music, as well as a well-established musical supervisor/director on a wide range of West End shows from Betty Blue Eyes, The Bodyguard to the forthcoming The Girls. I actually attended a concert showcasing Beadle’s music back in 2013 but it has taken me a little time to get round to properly listening to the album.
His style seems to sit somewhere equidistant between ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ musical theatre writing – the nervy angst of ‘The Wedding Song’, sung perfectly by Julie Atherton, owes a debt to Jason Robert Brown whereas Rachael Wooding’s beautiful declaration of love in ‘Here We Are’ has a much more classic feel to it. And what comes across these 12 tracks is a pleasing sense of confidence in musicality, these are songs that stand as well individually as in the musicals from which they come. Continue reading “Album Review: Richard Beadle – Songs (2012)”
“Here’s the moral and the story from the guy who knows”
Firmly ensconced in the role of Tommy DeVito in the London production of Jersey Boys, Jon Boydon released his debut album Three Four last year but though he’s coming from many years spent in the world of musical theatre, this collection of thirteen songs could never be accused of being ‘stagey’. Instead, Boydon delves into the realms of modern rock, rhythm and blues, and the rock and roll that he delivers nightly at the Prince Edward Theatre to create an accomplished and accessible album that will appeal to a much wider audience of people than just those who are fans of rock.
The temptation with albums such as these is for the performer to stamp their mark on the material which can often lead to some dubious interpretations of classic songs but Boydon wisely resists this and demonstrates a crystal-clear sense of his own musicality which means his voice never sounds anything less than completely assured and still maintains a pleasing fidelity to the material. This is never bettered than on a wonderful version of ‘Runaround Sue’, making it sound deceptively easy and glorious fun to boot. Continue reading “Album Review: Jon Boydon – Three Four”
“With grace and poise, not hate and noise”
Nestled in the basement of the newly-built St James Theatre in Victoria is a studio with an ambitiously varied programme of events that runs throughout the week but at weekends, it turns into a cabaret space hosting a range of singers from the world of musical theatre and beyond. And this Sunday saw the turn of songwriter and West End musical director Richard Beadle to showcase his work in a concert mainly featuring songs from his album, simply entitled Songs, sung by a host of West End stars.
The show was split into two halves – the first taking in songs from his musical work-in-progress Today Is My Day and the second, an assortment of other numbers from his songbook and from the albums of other people with whom he has worked – but unifying the whole evening was Beadle’s clear gift for songwriting. His ear for a clean and uncomplicated melody is perfect for the effective telling of story through song and so the simple but powerful emotions behind songs like the traumatic ‘1967’ delivered beautifully by Niamh Perry and the melancholy ‘Here We Are’, Rachael Wooding revelling in the chance to show a subtler side to her voice, shone through with an impressive lyrical naturalism. Continue reading “Review: Richard Beadle – Songs , St James Studio”
“I know who you are and I know why you’re here”
On the face of it, Tim Prottey-Jones’ debut album More With Every Line ought to have been a no-questions-asked slam-dunk of a success with me, following on from other new musical theatre writers with star-studded line-ups on their albums – Michael Bruce and Lance Horne springing immediately to mind. Yet something about it didn’t quite work for me and after repeated listens, it still hasn’t emerged as an album that I am particularly fond of.
Prottey-Jones is a young composer, a drummer and guitarist as well as a singer, and this album is made up of songs taken from two musicals that are currently in development with his co-librettist and lyricist Robert Gould – After the Turn and Once Bitten. And it is these two points between them that I think are shaping my opinion. The music is largely pop/rock which really just isn’t my thing at all and as these are shows in development, this is music which hasn’t necessarily been much exposed to the rigours of external ears. Continue reading “CD Review: Tim Prottey-Jones – More With Every Line”
“If I were you, I’d take a permanent vacation”
So part two of my West End Groupon deal and an interesting one for me as it was a long-running show that I can honestly say I would never have gotten round to going to see on my own behalf: Jersey Boys. The story of four guys, Frankie Castelluchio, Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio who rose from their humble New Jersey beginnings to rise to the top of the charts as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
Things did not get off to a good start with a rap version of ‘Oh! What A Night’ and being exhorted to clap along: it is just too early in the night to start with that business and it is not like it is the type of show where there is lots of audience participation so I found it an odd way to start. We then slid into the regular run of things with the story of how the group came together and then found success, being narrated in four quarters, or seasons (see it’s clever!) by each of the band members. The music, much of which was unfamiliar to me I have to admit, as by the band in their various performances and tours which I really liked, but then oddly, random songs became story devices. So, ‘Oh! What A Night’ became a tale of the group visiting a brothel and having his innocence plucked from him though with a premature ending (‘As I recall it ended much too soon’…!). It was a bizarre moment and one that didn’t work for me and I was glad to see the majority of the rest of the music being performance-based. Continue reading “Review: Jersey Boys, Prince Edward”