Combining the music from classic and contemporary musicals, this compilation album is fascinating and insightful.
Ever wondered how the song ‘For Good’ from Wicked came about? Or why the positioning of ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ was changed in the musical Annie? Then you will need to take a listen to this fascinating and insightful album that offers a new perspective of some of the best-known musical songs written for Broadway shows.
Blending songs from classic musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof with more contemporary musicals such as Dear Evan Hansen, Behind the Curtain offers musical theatre fans a chance to hear their favourite songs in a way they haven’t before: as sung by those who composed them.
By hearing what composers such as Stephen Schwartz and Benji Pasek have to say about a selection of songs that they have written and how they were created, the album is an opportunity to get a new insight into just how important creating a solid song to reflect the story appropriately is. For example, hearing Pasek discussing just what he and Justin wanted to achieve with ‘For Forever’ from Dear Evan Hansen, it deepens our understanding of the song but also draws attention to how important the music is in driving the story forward.
Particular highlights of the album includes Schwartz’s rendition of ‘For Good’ which oozes with gentleness and sincerity, Lynn Ahrens performing ‘Once Upon a December’ and ‘No Moon’ performed by Maury Yeston – all capturing the magic of song writing perfectly. By stripping back the songs in this way the listener can really hear all of the lyrics and feel all of the emotions that the composers and lyricists have put into each individual song beautifully.
But, on the other side of this the album can end up feeling slightly too analytical to be enjoyed properly – particularly when some tracks don’t flow from one to the other that can make it feel stilted. It also feels like an album that is best suited for the most devoted musical theatre fan – when it includes references to lesser known musicals such as Rocky the Musical and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.
Yet for the most part the album gets a lot right. For example, those who prefer more contemporary musicals such as Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon and Anastasia there is also plenty to be enjoyed – with excellent renditions of ‘There’s a Fine, Fine Line’ and ‘You and Me (But Mostly Me)’ that are refreshing to listen to.
The album is quite a long listen and perhaps could have done with some trimming and more focus in terms of its selection – but this is an album that any musical theatre fan will want to add to their collection.
By Emma Clarendon
Behind the Curtain: Broadway Composers & Lyricists Sing Their Songs is available now.