This debut album from the London Musical Theatre Orchestra is lively and expertly performed – but highlights a couple of issues with the musical itself.
Having been to see this concert performance at the Bishopsgate Institute last November, I was curious to hear if the London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s performance translated just as well onto an album.
Howard Goodall’s World War II inspired musical about the female recruits on a RAF base is lush, lively and heartfelt – but it feels like the story and characterisations are slightly lost when recorded on an album as it is a musical that is sensitive, bringing together many different stories tied up into one show. Without being able to see what is going on and a lack of narration it can be difficult to put the songs into proper context of the story.
But this is not the fault of the London Musical Theatre Orchestra, conductor Freddie Tapner or the West End cast performing the show – all of whom deliver strong performances in their own way. It is down to the structure of Howard Goodall’s musical that seamlessly moves from one song to the next as well as between different characters and their stories that seems to blur around the edges with each song – the addition of dialogue between characters would help to draw the listener into the story being played out a bit more and given a bit more context.
However, despite this the album is worth a listen as the musical features a rich variety of music that ranges from heartfelt ballads such as ‘Frozen’ to more lively numbers such as ‘The Song of the Parachute Packers’ that really reflect the era and the brief moments of joy that could be found even while the war was going on. While at times some of the lyrics become slightly repetitive (as heard on ‘Wake Me O Wake Me’ which feels slightly indulgent and loses its meaning as the song goes on), there is a great deal of sincerity to be found, particularly found listening to the beautiful rendition of ‘The Chances Are’.
Performance wise, all of the cast including Lucie Jones, Natasha Barnes, Bronté Barbé and Rob Houchen deliver exquisite performances that highlight the intricate details of the music beautifully, helped by the liveliness and richness of the London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s own performance of the score.
Overall, this album is worth a listen, particularly if you have seen the London Musical Theatre Orchestra performing live. Musically, it is a richly diverse score that is beautifully delivered by the London Musical Theatre Orchestra and the cast performances
By Emma Clarendon
The live concert recording of Girlfriends performed by the London Musical Theatre Orchestra can be downloaded here or a hard copy can be bought here.