Album Reviews: Mazz Murray – Midnight Mazz – Here We Go Again / Mascherato the Musical / Howard Goodall’s Songs from the Musicals Vol. 1

This set of album reviews covers Mazz Murray – Midnight Mazz – Here We Go Again, Mascherato the Musical (Original Studio Cast Recording) and Howard Goodall’s Songs from the Musicals Vol. 1

“You thrill me, you delight me
You please me, you excite me”

If anyone gets to follow Cher in making an album of ABBA songs, then it is probably the West End’s Donna Sheridan, Mazz Murray.  Midnight Mazz – Here We Go Again sees her interpret 10 of Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid’s best with an unexpectedness tenderness that you don’t necessarily always associate with the band. Handclaps guitar arpeggios adorn ‘Chiquitita’, a solo ‘My Love My Life’ feels packed with more yearning than ever, so too a delicately layered ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ which is making a late case to be one of my all-time favourite ABBA songs. A lovely way to revisit some of those oh-so-familiar songs. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Mazz Murray – Midnight Mazz – Here We Go Again / Mascherato the Musical / Howard Goodall’s Songs from the Musicals Vol. 1”

Album Review: The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall

“We had such hopes…”

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, The Phantom of the Opera decamped to the Royal Albert Hall for 3 performances, the highlights of which were spliced together to give a full CD/DVD release package which contains as full a rendering of the entire score as it currently available. Maybe it was a rush job though as the sound quality on this CD really isn’t good enough for it to be genuinely recommendable, even for a live recording. 

I also had mixed feelings about the production itself. I just can’t get on with Sierra Boggess’ voice, her soprano voice always erring to the too shrill for my liking and the vibrato she employs has all the subtlety of a jackhammer. Christine isn’t the strongest-written of roles at the best of times and Boggess just feels too emotionally vapid to be the inspiration of such all-conquering adoration as she is served with in this story. Continue reading “Album Review: The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall”

CD Review: Love on 42nd Street

“Lost myself in the night”

Love on 42nd Street is an album of new music by composer duo Daniel and Laura Curtis, recorded by a stellar line-up of West End and Broadway performer, all in aid of raising money for the BBC’s Children in Need campaign. As performers, the Curtises are noted for their interpretations of Ivor Novello‘s works and the Great American Songbook, and these influences are plain to see in the set of eight songs that make up this collection.

Written specifically for these performers, the composers have deliberately chosen to span a range of genres but the feel is always reflective. Song construction, melody lines, string arrangements are relatively traditional, frequently stirring and soaring though rarely superlative. Part of the problem lies in its professionalism, several of the songs are presented with a radio-friendly polished sheen which lacks the passionate theatrical edge that would really make them stand out. Continue reading “CD Review: Love on 42nd Street”

Review: Dear World, Charing Cross Theatre

“She’s not that innocent, she keeps rabbits”

This is actually the UK premiere of Jerry Herman’s 1969 musical Dear World and reading the programme notes about the tortured history of the show – the unhappiness of the writers at how the first production was taken out of their hands, the subsequent numerous rewrites, the competitive and changing musical theatre environment of the time – one could justifiably ask why the decision has been made to put it on now. Seasoned director/choreographer Gillian Lynne has been the one to take it on though, providing a refreshed take on both book and score, and in perhaps the biggest coup, attracting musical theatre legend Betty Buckley to the lead role of the Countess Aurelia.  

The story is based on a 1945 play by Giradoux called The Madwoman of Chaillot and is a rather whimsical, you could say bonkers, tale of ecologically-minded community action rising up against exploitative capitalism. A group of avaricious financiers have been led to believe that they can excavate oil from beneath the boulevards of Paris and are willing to do anything – including knocking down the Café Francis – to get at it. And plotting to stop them and save their café, city and the world they hold so dearly, are a ragtag band of odd individuals with the not-quite-as-eccentric-as-all-that Countess Aurelia. Continue reading “Review: Dear World, Charing Cross Theatre”

Review: Perchance to Dream, Finborough Theatre

“If you run out of words, just burst into song”

The Finborough Theatre in West London has had an excellent record in reviving British musicals as part of their “Celebrating British Music Theatre” series and marking the 60th anniversary of the death of composer Ivor Novello is Perchance to Dream, sliding into the Sunday/Monday slot there for the month of September. It is the first professional London production for 25 years of this show devised, written and composed by Novello himself, the only show for which he wrote the lyrics.

It is an unashamedly romantic musical, centring on the country pile Huntersmoon and the tangled love affairs of its residents as we glide from the Regency era, through Victorian times and to WWII as the ghosts of the past continue to haunt future generations. But it is the glorious music that commands the attention as Novello’s score incorporate such classics as ‘Love Is My Reason’, ‘A Woman’s Heart’ and ‘We’ll Gather Lilacs’: classic songwriting close to its best. Continue reading “Review: Perchance to Dream, Finborough Theatre”