CD Reviews – A Spoonful of Sherman, Lost West End, Gypsy, The Scottsboro Boys, The King and I

buy_from_dresscircleNick Wakeham casts an eye over some of the latest CD releases.

Musical Theatre Review’s CD reviews page is presented in association with DRESS CIRCLE, the longest-running Musical Theatre specialist shop in the world.


ASOS_CD_CoverA SPOONFUL OF SHERMAN – Original London Cast Recording (SimG Records – SimGR-CD027)

Celebrating 90 years and three generations of the famous Sherman songwriting family, this new CD from SimG Records is yet another triumph for that company and one that I am sure most stage and film musical lovers will want to add to their collection.

At first I thought it was simply going to be a compilation of Sherman Brothers songs throughout the many years, but I was more than pleasantly surprised to see that it was what appears to be the entire cabaret show, without an audience. I haven’t seen the production, but I almost feel as if I have, now that I have listened to this delightful CD a couple of times.

It is packed with instantly recognisable songs and it will amaze you just how many hits were written by the Sherman Brothers, their father Al Sherman and Robert Sherman’s son, Robbie. All this delivered by a wonderful quartet (Greg Castiglioni, Stuart Matthew Price, Charlotte Wakefield and Emma Williams) accompanied by Colin Billing at the piano and narrated throughout by Robert J Sherman.

Songs include: ‘Comes A-Long A-Love’, ‘You’re Sixteen’, ‘Feed the Birds’, ‘The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers’… Look, I’d be here all day listing even the most well-known of the bunch. It is simply a cornucopia of delights! One for the shopping list.

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Lost West EndLOST WEST END – London Cast Recordings (Stage Door Records – STAGE 9041)

I’ve just had a complete throwback to when I was in my youth in London and went to see many shows that, by the time I had reached the theatre exit, had been completely eradicated from my mind.

However, that didn’t mean to say there wasn’t at least one saving grace from each of these disasters and I kind of wished that a recording had been issued so that I could just play that one track over and over again. Well, now it has happened. By the power of those wonderful people at Stage Door Records, we have the best of the worst – those songs that, when you hear them now, you think ‘Maybe the show wasn’t that bad after all’ (it probably was! – I had to watch Leonardo in two sittings, as I couldn’t bear to sit through the whole thing at once).

There are some tracks that were released on albums, such as ‘Eternally’ from Which Witch (the musical with the most unintentionally hysterical Act I finale to grace the London stage) and ‘Beautiful Colours’ from Liza of Lambeth. However, there are also some sparkling treasures that were either never released commercially or only appeared on concept albums, such as ‘The Souvenirs of Second Best’ from Lautrec, ‘The Four Dames’ from I and ‘Call Me Robin Hood’ from Robin Prince of Sherwood.

The later shows on the album (Too Close to the Sun, The Far Pavilions, Beautiful and Damned) I didn’t actually see on stage, as I had left London by then, but they are as interesting in their own way, and will obviously be familiar to those who had access to the West End throughout the early 2000s.

I have to admit that I love compilations like this – not the usual well-known stuff but songs from shows that may have flopped and gone but, in a strange way, will never be forgotten. Thank you once again, Stage Door Records!

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gypsy-new-london-cast-recording-cd.jpgGYPSY – 2015 London Cast Recording (First Night Records – CASTCD117)

As with The King and I (see below) my question is: ‘Another cast recording of Gypsy! Why?’ It seems to be every couple of years that a new recording comes out of this show. Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone and now Imelda Staunton.

Not having seen this production, I am going by the performances given on this cast recording and it would appear that Staunton’s Mama Rose is a much softer, almost kinder characterisation than any of the previous incarnations (with perhaps the exception of Angela Lansbury). Whereas she is usually made out to be a monster, Staunton comes over as having a heart even, although the passion for her kids to make it to the top is still very evident.

The entire CD is actually a delight to listen to. The orchestrations are superb and bring that era to life through the speakers. The supporting cast all sound like they are having a whale of a time and even Peter Davison, in what must be the most unrewarding leading male role in musicals, makes his mark.

So what, if there are countless versions of this musical already available! Each cast brings its own energy and identity to the show. This Chichester Festival Theatre production is obviously a huge hit in London and long may it continue. Another one to add to the library.

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the-scottsboro-boys-original-london-cast-cd.jpgTHE SCOTTSBORO BOYS – 2015 London Cast Recording (JAY RECORDS – CDJAY1433)

This was the final collaboration between my all-time favourite musical theatre composing duo – Kander and Ebb – and it makes you miss that collaboration even more when you listen to this recording.

Based on a true story about a group of nine black teenagers who were brought together in a case that sparked the American Civil Rights Movement and led to two pivotal Supreme Court rulings, it really is only Kander and Ebb who could make that situation into an extraordinary entertainment.

It has already been a huge hit in America with its own cast recording, but the London cast, which includes: Joshua Da Costa, Brandon Victor Dixon, Julian Glover, Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon (from the original US cast), Dawn Hope and Emmanuel Kojo, to name but a few, are all excellent and bring this show to life through this splendid recording.

Tracks include: ‘Minstrel March’, ‘Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey!’, ‘Alabama Ladies’, ‘Go Back Home,’ ‘That’s Not the Way We Do Things’, ’Southern Days’ and the title track ‘The Scottsboro Boys’. It would be really petty of me to point out any one member of the company over another, as this is a true ensemble piece performed by a true ensemble.

Kudos must also be given to the orchestra.

This is one that I will be playing and playing again and again.

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the-king-and-i-2014-broadway-cast-cd.jpgTHE KING AND I – 2015 Broadway Cast Recording (DECCA CLASSICS – 2337002)

Another The King and I recording, why? At least that was my initial thought. Okay, it is currently taking Broadway by storm but do we need yet another one?

In this instance I am delighted to say (on the whole) ‘Yes’. The all-new cast recording of the 2015 Broadway cast does have one huge diamond at its centre and that is Kelli O’Hara. Her renditions of the songs seem to take you on the journey she is experiencing – unlike other portrayals of Anna Leonowens, who simply ‘sing’ the songs as they come.

I especially like her ‘Hello Young Lovers’, in which you can almost hear her thinking out loud about her past. Then when the meat of the piece brings itself to the fore with ‘Shall I Tell You What I Think Of You?’ – if you close your eyes you can actually see the frustration in her face. This is one exquisite portrayal and leaves no doubt as to why she won the Tony Award for the role.

The supporting cast is just as wonderful, with Ruthie Ann Miles standing out with her rendition of ‘Something Wonderful’. The orchestrations are lush and exciting and even make ‘The Small House of Uncle Thomas’ bearable – I have always disliked that moment in the show which seems to go on for an eternity.

If you are looking for a definitive version of the musical this may not be it (not all numbers from the show are included). However, you will certainly get the definitive Anna in Kelli O’Hara. Well worth the purchase.

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