Having fallen in love with Jon Robyns in parallel with tumbling hard for Avenue Q, he really is the leading man of my (entirely platonic) dreams, so news of a new solo album was certainly up my strasse. And Musical Direction manages an excellent job of balancing many of the aspects of that come with musical theatre performers making their own recordings.
There are nods to his performance past – a chirpy take on The Last Five Years’ ‘Moving Too Fast’ and a delicately beautiful glide through Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s ‘Hushabye Mountain’ – and a perfectly timed look to the future too. And this is where the cleverness kicks in as you may not think you really need another version of ‘Bring Him Home’ but this acoustic, cello-drenched arrangement is spine-tingling good, certainly whetting the appetite for his imminent debut as Jean Valjean when Les Misérables reopens the Sondheim Theatre.
Elsewhere, there’s song choices and musical arrangements that think a little outside the box rather than retreading the same old classics. The close harmony on ‘When She Loved Me’, the falsetto power of ‘Grace Kelly’, getting in friends Rachel Tucker and Sharon Rose to duet on ‘Shallow’ and ‘Walking in Memphis’, Billy Joel’s ‘Vienna’ – I mean, just *swoon*. Throw in a proper Avenue Q tribute with a real bonus treat at the end and this is just a damn good album.
And collecting up a few odds and ends, having just departed the diner Marisha Wallace has released an excellent r’n’b-electro-stomper in ‘Fight Like A Woman (Slay)’, and Luke Evans is teasing his forthcoming album At Last. his ballad-adjacent reinvention of ‘Love Is A Battlefield’ is well sung but robs the song of all its inherent excitement and ‘Changing’ is aiming squarely for inspiration-pop but I kinda just want him to have a bit more fun with it all.