No matter what you think of Renée Fleming, you can’t accuse her of resting on her laurels. At this point in her career, she could well be taking the easy route but this decade alone has seen her tackle Broadway (most recently receiving a Tony nomination for Carousel) for the first time and release an album that featured interpretations of three Björk songs. Her newest release cleaves closer to musical theatre though, and Broadway is available now from Decca Classics.
And it is well worth the listen. Demonstrating the same kind of adventurousness that has marked Audra McDonald’s recorded output, the likes of Jeanine Tesori and Adam Guettel rub shoulders with Cole Porter and Maury Yeston, Pasek and Paul with Rodgers and Hammerstein, with a smidge of Lloyd Webber and Sondheim thrown in for good measure, and the result is an utterly beguiling confection that perfectly showcases that glorious soprano voice.
The album’s highlight comes early on with a well-matched medley of Into The Woods’ ‘Children Will Listen’ and South Pacific’s ‘You’ve Got to be Taught’ where she collaborates with Leslie Odom Jr. and some kind of heavenly magic is worked. It’s followed by a gorgeous rendition of Dear Evan Hansen’s ‘So Big/So Small’, the suppleness of her vocal slipping so easily into a relaxed contemporary style and yet losing none of its devastating emotional power.
So too with an exquisitely tender ‘Lay Down Your Head’ from Violet, this is no uncommon interpretative work going on here. In the meantime, joyful skips through the likes of ‘A Wonderful Guy’ and ‘Something Wonderful’ are just…well…wonderful, ‘Down in the Depths’ has a liminal, languid feel of decadence to it, and the medley from The Visit also stands out in its intense passion. I’m a fan!
A slightly curious choice for the cast recording treatment is The Quentin Dentin Show. A quirky little musical that has done the rounds of Edinburgh and off-West-End runs over a few years now (review #1, review #2) and of whose idiosyncratic charms I have grown quite fond. With its festival-friendly cabaret style though, I wondered how well it would translate to record.
The answer is surprisingly well. Henry Carpenter’s music and lyrics as delivered by Luke Lane are day-glo bright and sparklingly full of character. Produced and mixed by Paul Garred, the recording is entirely radio-friendly, full of bouncy diverse pop tunes like the title track, ‘Friendzone’ (which sounds as much like Republica as anything) and the melodic ‘Life’.
As with many a cast recording, divorced from the full context of the show it does feel a little unmoored. Its diversity sounding a tad scattershot, its narrative drive unclear as it lacks the book scenes. But still, its good to see another example of the richness of British musical theatre writing being supported and made more accessible like this.
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