JUDY COLLINS – A LOVE LETTER TO STEPHEN SONDHEIM DVD (Wildflower – MVD9662D)
I have to admit that I love Judy Collins, always have. In fact, it was her who introduced me to Stephen Sondheim’s music in 1973 with her Top 10 hit version of ‘Send in the Clowns’.
It made me want to find out more about this Sondheim bloke – and I am very glad it did. I also had the great good fortune to interview Collins for a radio programme about five years ago and found her to be a really down-to-earth, lovely lady who was an interviewer’s dream – so easy to talk to.
So, having said all that, I was over the moon when this new DVD arrived in the post for review. It doesn’t disappoint. There are a couple of little niggles, but on the whole it is a wonderful 90 minutes spent with Judy Collins and the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra, filmed live at the Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver, USA.
Out of the 17 tracks, 15 of them are Sondheim – and that is my first little niggle. Why are there two seemingly unassociated tracks on this DVD? The first song is ‘Chelsea Morning’ and then halfway through the concert we get a John Denver melody!
Both are lovely tracks but why? I even watched the bonus material to see if it held the answer but no, nothing to answer that question. Okay, so a little niggle there but nothing to stop you purchasing the DVD.
Of the remaining 15 tracks, Collins includes: ‘No One is Alone’, ‘Green Finch and Linnet Bird’, ‘Move On’, ‘There Won’t Be Trumpets’, ‘Finishing the Hat’, ‘The Road You Didn’t Take’, ‘I Remember Sky’, ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ and, of course, ‘Send in the Clowns’, amongst others.
All beautifully sung with that distinctive Collins voice which, at the age of 78, shows no signs of wear or tear.
Three tracks are not quite as successful as others, in my opinion. Those are two big power ballads: ‘Being Alive’ and ‘I’m Still Here’.
The former needs a much stronger voice than we have here, and the latter only comes across when sung by a really good actress who can bring out the full irony and humour of the piece.
The third track that doesn’t work as well is ‘The Road You Didn’t Take’ – this just didn’t hit the spot for me.
But the other 14 tracks (included the non-Sondheim ones) are, at times, mesmerising and hearing Collins sing ‘Send in the Clowns’ 43 years after the original recording, is breathtaking – sounding just as poignant as it did originally. A demonstration that her voice is still as pure as it has always been.
One last niggle: during the concert she has a music stand beside here with all the music on it which she refers to many times during the songs.
I found this a bit distracting to be honest and couldn’t help wondering why she hadn’t used an autocue monitor which would have been of benefit to the audience as well.
Age certainly hasn’t weakened Collins’ vocal prowess. Just to sit back and enjoy being in her presence is an experience that I will certainly be repeating – thanks to this wonderful DVD.
DRAKE’S DREAM – Original London Cast (Stage Door Records – STAGE 9048)
Having been around the West End from the late 1960s onwards, it is always a delight to get a new release from Stage Door Records and, before I review the latest album, I just want to say that for musical theatre lovers of my generation, this company is like manna from heaven! Nothing wrong with a lovely big dose of nostalgia to bring a smile to your face.
Drake’s Dream comes from the late 1970s (1977 to be precise) and starred a pop idol of the day, Paul Jones. The book of the show was written by Simon Brett, a renowned writer and radio producer, who has written many wonderfully entertaining novels based on detective fiction (if you haven’t come across them, then I suggest you Google him and get one of the novels to try out).
The music and lyrics of the show were written by Lynne and Richard Riley – I believe this was their only musical, although I am happy to be proved wrong on that point.
The show is a musical biography of Sir Francis Drake, played by Jones, and his historic seafaring circumnavigation of the world back in the 1500s. The show also starred David Burt, Earl Jordan, Caro Gurney and Janet Shaw and, at the time, it received rather mixed reviews with some of the critics not able to understand whether they were watching a rock musical or a pantomime.
As such, it didn’t have as long a run as the producers would have wanted. I remember going to see it at the Westminster Theatre, where it transferred after a short season at the Shaftesbury Theatre, and I have to admit I can’t remember a whole lot about it.
However, it is the CD that we are reviewing here and the passing of years makes this sound all the more endearing and is a wonderful record of what we in the 1970s looked on as a ‘modern musical’. It is obvious that songs were written to suit the style and popularity of Jones, who was after all the main draw. But other cast members hold their own and even Tricia Deighton’s saucy number ‘Fa La La’ is a joy to hear.
In conclusion: this is not (and has never been) a favourite musical of mine but, as with all the Stage Door Records remastered releases, it brings back wonderful memories of a time gone by that we will never be able to relive again on stage – thank goodness all is not lost and we at least have these fabulous CD releases.
THE KING and I/CAROUSEL libretti (Applause Libretto Library: King and I – ISBN: 978-1-4950-5609-3; Carousel – ISBN: 978-1-4950-5658-1)
You may wonder what on earth we are doing reviewing a couple of libretti that have been available for more than 60 years. Well, Rodgers and Hammerstein have brought out new editions of these scripts with lovely glossy covers and photographs of original and current productions as well as the films.
Both of the books have an introduction by Ted Chapin, who runs the Rodgers and Hammersmith offices and is in charge of all copyright throughout the world for R&H productions. And, could I add, a really lovely man who I had the pleasure of meeting many moons ago. What Ted Chapin doesn’t know about R&H is not worth knowing!
There is also South Pacific available in this new format but I was only sent the above two books to examine. I am sure there will be more to follow so keep an eye open for Applause Libretto Library editions of your favourite musical libretti.