Cast Albums Blog

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REVIEW: Maddie - Original London Cast (Deluxe Edition)

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Stage Door Records does terrific work unearthing lost curiosities. If not everything they release turns out to be a forgotten masterpiece, their catalogue of recordings includes some fascinating material. And so it proves here: based on Jack Finney’s 1973 novel ‘Marion’s Wall’, which also begat the Glenn Close movie ‘Maxie’, Maddie was a relatively swift flop at London’s Lyric Theatre in 1997. Save for one number – Knick Knacks, mercifully absent from this rerelease – the show was never exactly bad, but it was one of those productions (yes, I saw it) where the elements didn’t quite come together, and Summer Rognlie’s strident performance in the leading role didn’t help. The story – about a young woman in San Francisco who becomes possessed by the ghost of a long-dead aspiring actress, with predictably chaoticlab consequences for her career and marriage – needs a light touch, and didn’t get it, at least from the show’s star; because the central performance didn’t work, whatever charms the material itself might have had tended to remain hidden.

REVIEW: Funny Girl - London Revival Cast

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On the back of Sheridan Smith's name, the initial run of the London revival of Funny Girl sold out in a single morning. The producers announced a transfer into the West End before it had even opened at the Menier. The reviews were mostly sensational, but Smith's tenure in the role has been somewhat troubled, especially since the show transferred to the Savoy, and she missed several weeks of performances due to "exhaustion." Is Ms. Smith "the greatest star," as she sings near the top of the show? Well... perhaps this revival's cast recording doesn't play to her greatest strengths.

REVIEW: Two Cities - Original London Cast

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It was the best of shows, it was the worst of shows. The appeal of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities as source material for a musical isn’t difficult to fathom: it can easily be presented as a sweeping romance with an epic historical backdrop, there’s plenty of room for spectacle, and the story can accommodate a large chorus. It’s also a familiar title, and (like Les Misérables for the French) everybody knows the most famous lines, and has at least some idea of the basic plot. It’s been adapted for the musical stage several times – at least four musicals, plus a couple of operas – but (unlike Les Misérables) it’s never become a major stage hit.

This particular adaptation, titled simply Two Cities, opened at London’s Palace Theatre in 1969, and it has two headline attractions: music by Jeff Wayne, who went on to compose the score for the War of the Worlds concept album, and Edward Woodward making a (relatively) rare musical appearance as Sydney Carton. They’re both worth your attention; as for the show itself, it received a decidedly mixed critical response, and based on the material on this album, it’s not at all difficult to see why.

REVIEW: Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined - 2015 London Cast

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Burt Bacharach is justifiably regarded as one of the preeminent pop songwriters of the sixties and seventies, so it's probably inevitable that theatrical revues of his work will occasionally appear – no bad thing in theory, since his terrific score for Promises Promises proved his music can work beautifully in the theatre. The 2003 Broadway revue The Look of Love went unrecorded, but Kyle Riabko's Close To You, originally produced at New York Theater Works under the title What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined, has yielded a cast recording following successful runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory and the Criterion in London.

REVIEW: She Loves Me - 2016 Broadway Cast

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Twenty-three years after they first revived it, She Loves Me is back at the Roundabout. The show is one of the under-appreciated gems of musical theatre’s golden age – it’s never been that big a hit, but it inspires enormous devotion among those lucky enough to have seen a good production, because it’s one of those pieces where the whole, somehow, is far greater than the sum of the parts. Based on Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo’s ‘Parfumerie’, She Loves Me tells the rather slight story of two warring sales clerks in a Budapest parfumerie who are not aware that they’re engaged in a lonely-hearts correspondence with each other. Thanks to Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s glorious score, along with Joe Masteroff’s literate, just-sweet-enough book, the final scene, if done well, can be a great deal more moving than you might expect. It’s a rom-com, yes – the same source material later formed the basis for the Tom Hanks – Meg Ryan vehicle You’ve Got Mail – but it’s one of the best, and a good revival of the show is always an event – particularly if it gets recorded.

And Ghostlight’s new cast recording certainly does not disappoint. There are four existing English-language cast albums of the show – two from Broadway and two from London – but this one stands head and shoulders above all of them except the matchless 1963 original. The show is on my (very) short list of musicals I consider more or less perfect; this recording delivers as good an account of the score as you could hope for, and even the minor criticisms – there are a few – are so minor that they more or less amount to splitting hairs.