Cast Albums Blog
REVIEW: Bat Out of Hell - Original London Cast
Released in Canada last year to coincide with the show’s Toronto opening and only now getting a full UK release several months into the second London run, the original cast recording of Bat out of Hell: the Musical turns out to sound exactly the way you’d expect it to if, like me, you’ve yet to see the show. At twenty-one (long) tracks over two discs, the album appears to give a reasonably complete account of the show’s principal musical numbers, most of which have been lifted from Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell trilogy. Either you like Jim Steinman’s floridly grandiose, quasi-operatic brand of rock or you don’t; I do, and I was prepared to love this album, but I never quite got there. It’s never bad, but it’s also never surprising: divorced from the show’s context, you’re left with a selection of mostly familiar songs presented in arrangements which never stray too far from Steinman’s trademark sound, performed by a superb band and a cast of apparently iron-lunged singers, none of whom are as distinctive or as interesting as the people who performed the songs on the original recordings.
REVIEW: Prince of Broadway - Original Broadway Cast
On paper, this should be a tremendous celebration. Harold Prince, the director and producer whose astonishing body of work is the subject of this revue, has arguably made as large a contribution to the evolution of musical theatre as any individual since the end of World War Two. He's worked with Bernstein, Sondheim, Lloyd Webber, Bock and Harnick, Kander and Ebb, and nearly everybody in between. He's produced and/or directed musicals that are now widely – universally – hailed as landmarks of the genre. His biggest hit – The Phantom of the Opera – has now been running on Broadway for more than thirty years. This revue's songstack contains an embarrassment of riches: peerless classic after peerless classic, performed by a brilliantly talented ensemble cast, all of whom have turned in distinguished work in other productions, with new arrangements and a new finale by the astonishingly talented Jason Robert Brown. You can practically feel the fireworks beginning in the instant before you press 'play'. What could possibly go wrong?
REVIEW: Working - Original London Cast
Over the past few years, London’s Southwark Playhouse has built an enviable reputation as the home of an eclectic series of productions of American musicals. Productions from a 250-seat fringe theatre south of the river, though, do not usually yield cast recordings, so the new (and thoroughly enjoyable) cast album from last year’s European premiere production of Working is a very welcome surprise. Luke Sheppard’s production was a dazzling, more-or-less perfect gem in the theatre, but plenty of theatrical gems have gone unrecorded. This one, though, has a unique selling-point: two brand-new(ish) songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda augmenting the score’s (already) eclectic range of songs from a diverse set of composers and lyricists.
REVIEW: Girl from the North Country - Original London Cast
Billed as a 'play with songs' rather than a musical, Conor McPherson's Girl from the North Country, now in the final week of a run at London's Old Vic, has proved to be one of the summer's sleeper hits. In the early part of the run, discounts were readily available, but the final performances are completely sold out. There's every chance the show will have some kind of further life elsewhere; in the meantime, the cast recording makes a strong case for it as an unusual, sometimes achingly beautiful piece of music theatre.
REVIEW: Lost West End Vintage: London's Forgotten Musicals 1948-1962
From Stage Door Records, another worthwhile curiosity. Lost West End Vintage is a compilation of tracks from British musicals that premiered during what is generally considered the American musical’s “golden age” – that is, between the mid-1940s and the 1970s. These shows almost all predate the ascendance in this country of the Lloyd Webber megamusical, and they have mostly sunk without trace; you’re unlikely to see a revival of Wild Grows the Heather or Expresso Bongo or Cage Me a Peacock anytime soon. That doesn’t mean they don’t contain any worthwhile music, though, and the 52 – yes, 52 – tracks included on this compilation’s two discs include several unappreciated gems. They include some things you’ll listen to once and subsequently skip, of course, but that’s the nature of this kind of album; fortunately, the good here far outweighs the bad, and the best of this recording is very entertaining indeed.