Stuart Matthew Price Sings The Songbook of Menken was performed at the St James Theatre Studio, London, as part of the London Festival of Cabaret.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Following his Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Schwartz concerts at the St James Studio, the irrepressible Stuart Matthew Price gave us a fun and spirited The Songbook of Menken evening as part of the London Festival of Cabaret.
With the packed audience anticipating a Disney selection, it was a nice move to start with an extensive selection from Little Shop of Horrors, the Off-Broadway musical that put Alan Menken and his collaborator Howard Ashman on the map before Disney poached them!
As always in Price’s concerts, the vocal arrangements (credit to brilliant pianist/musical director Sean Green) were superb and his guests high profile, including Jana Stelley, who starred as Glinda in the German version of Wicked in Stuttgar, stepping in at the last moment from the audience!
A welcome visit to two recent Menken Broadway shows: the flop Leap of Faith, with ’Lost’, and the successful stage version of Newsies (‘Seize the Day’, ‘Santa Fe’) were followed by Price’s delivery of a moving ‘Proud of Your Boy’, cut from the movie version of Aladdin. The latter, restored to the stage version, was dedicated by Price to to his grandmother, who was watching with pride from the audience.
Act I concluded with ‘This New Jerusalem’, a rarity from an abandoned Disney project about King David.
Act II was, not surprisingly, more Disney oriented, starting with Price delivering an impressive ‘Out There’ (perhaps one of Menken’s best songs) from the stage version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame – yet to be seen in the West End and on Broadway.
A cleverly conceived Disney medley followed for which Price was joined by his fellow A Spoonful of Sherman co-star and St James regular Charlotte Wakefield. They aptly started with ‘Be Our Guest’ from Beauty and the Beast, gently mocking Celine Dion along the way, and concluded with a heartfelt rendition of ‘Part of Your World’ from The Little Mermaid.
Landi Oshinowo offered a rendition of ‘Fabulous, Baby!’, followed by Julie Atherton with ‘The Life I Never Led’, another song from Sister Act.
After some brilliant vocal harmonies from an impeccable vocal trio to ‘Zero to Hero’ (credit to the talented Georgia Riley, Emma Hall and Thomas Winfield), the evening ended with Price delivering the Hercules classic ‘Go the Distance’, just draped in white sheets!
As usual, Price’s encore was a quiet one, with himself at the piano singing the soft ‘Take Care of My Heart’.
A busy man, Price is just back from Japan where he has been developing his own musical Before After (written with Timothy Knapman). He is currently running a crowdfunding campaign here to finance a cast recording (bit.ly/1SLTLbR).
Let’s also hope that Price is cast in a big West End musical worthy of his talent in the near future. His warm voice and outgoing personality are unique and he deserves to be better known.