Elements: Simon Gleeson

SG24601

This debut album from musical theatre star, Simon Gleeson, will not leave anyone disappointed. Currently starring as Jean Valjean in the acclaimed new production of Cameron Mackintosh’s Les o_iP87-NMiserables, Gleeson shows that he is a world-class singer and actor. On this recording, he has assembled songs that are a personal testament, reflecting elements of his life, as well as his stage persona.

Composers and song-writers, such as Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers, Elton John, George Harrison, Billy Joel, Matt Alber, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, have been placed alongside each other, creating a strong selection of some of the greatest songs ever produced.

Gleeson has a voice that is beautifully rich and full of colour, from the highest notes in his range to the darker low register. In each song, he tells a story with clarity and ease. A Bit of Earth and End of the World sit easily alongside iconic show songs such as Anthem (Chess), Being Alive (Company), and Bring Him Home (Les Miserables).

(This review first appeared in Fine Music magazine, 2015.)

From Broadway to La Scala

Greta Bradman, David Hobson, Lisa McCune, Teddy Tahu Rhodes
ABC 482 3700

Audiences applaud such compilations when four well-known (“popular”) singers are brought together, and a national tour is mounted, making the release of a disc of arias, duets and ensembles, an assured top-seller.

From Broadway to La ScalaMusical theatre selections are from The Sound of Music, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, West Side Story, South Pacific, Oklahoma and Carousel. From opera, we hear excerpts from The Barber of Seville, The Pearl Fishers, Carmen, and The Elixir of Love.

Best by far is the aria Largo Al Factotum, from The Barber of Seville with the splendidly grand and rich voice of Teddy Tahu Rhodes. As well, his Toreador’s Song from Carmen is another expose of fine vocal artistry.

He joins the lighter tenor voice of David Hobson in the wondrous Act 1 duet Au Fond Du Temple Saint, from The Pearl Fishers, in which the vocal ensemble is very satisfying.

Rossini’s Una Voce Poco Fa displays the widely acclaimed new voice on the operatic stage, Greta Bradman with all her richness in the low register and an ease and lightness in the upper realms. It is easy to see why Maestro Richard Bonynge, who in this recording conducts the English Chamber Orchestra, is championing Ms Bradman.

Lisa McCune gives so much joy in My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. It is a sheer delight, as is her solo from Oklahoma, Oh What a Beautiful Morning.

The finest ensemble piece is You’ll Never Walk Alone from Carousel, even with these unequal voices at times. Individually, these voices have their own uniqueness and capacity to enthrall listeners, and I have no doubt that in concert or stage production, their performances would be enticing.

The harmonic setting of the duet, The Music of the Night, was somewhat odd, making one question why it was added at all. This is by far not the greatest rendition of this well-known song from musical theatre.

A similar curiosity arose with the opening track Hallelujah, an unusual take on this classic pop song by Leonard Cohen. Its first two verses were strangely conceived, but it settled and built effectively in McCune’s verse, and whilst Rhodes’s verse was good in itself, it was poorly mixed with the other voices. How does Cohen’s Hallelujah fit the Broadway to La Scala theme? A: Only with a stretch of the imagination.

Similarly, the inclusion of Nella Fantasia (a version of Gabriel’s Oboe with words) from the film, The Mission, seems again at odds, however, David Hobson’s solo here is perhaps his best, accompanied by the stunning voices of Cantillation.

A variety of orchestras (English Chamber Orchestra, Sinfonia Australis, but primarily the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra) gave this quartet of singers an authentic backdrop to enhance their performances further.

I Dreamed a Dream: Hit Songs from Broadway

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: Guy Noble

Various Artists

ABC 481 0378

Nineteen of the best-loved songs from twelve landmark musicals (from composers such as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Rodgers, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Leonard Bernstein, Robert and Richard Sherman, and Stephen Sondheim) coupled with a full orchestral backing from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, along with eight wonderful Australian musical theatre stars make this a stand-out recording.

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Guy Noble

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Guy Noble

Each performer hits the mark in his/her chosen songs, bringing to life the lyrics with an excitement and passion you would wish for in live theatre. Their individual vocal artistry and commitment to the music is the reason they each have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy careers on the stage.

Included are Toni Lamond AM (the indisputable doyenne of Australian Musical Theatre, and star of 42nd Street, My Fair Lady and five Lifetime Achievement Awards), Amanda Harrison (the original Elphaba in the Australian production of Wicked), Trisha Crowe (Christine in Masterpiece – The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber), Lucy Maunder (Lara in Doctor Zhivago), Jacqueline Dark (Don Giovanni, and Cinderella), Andy Conaghan (South Pacific, Oklahoma!, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), Michael Falzon (Side by Side by Sondheim), and David Parker (The Magic Flute, Rigoletto).

Whatever is your favourite song or musical, this compilation disc will simply astound you, whether it is the powerful title track, Stars, Bring Him Home, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, or On My Own (Les Miserables), The Music of the Night or All I Ask of You (The Phantom of the Opera), Memory (Cats), Some Enchanted Evening (South Pacific), Send in the Clowns (A Little Night Music), the evocative Over the Rainbow (The Wizard of Oz), Climb Ev’ry Mountain, My Favourite Things, or Edelweiss (The Sound of Music), Supercalifragilisticespialidocious (Mary Poppins), Don’t Cry for Me Argentina (Evita), Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’ (Oklahoma), Tonight (West Side Story) or wittily delivered Chitty Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Conductor, Guy Noble brings together this stellar cast of singers and musicians to produce a first-class collection, worthy of Broadway or the West End.

Noble’s recent “soapbox” contribution in Limelight (January 2014) suggests that he wish for musicals to remain interesting musically. He points specifically to those works by Richard Rodgers, in which the chord structures showed a “master at work”.

“Imaginative, unusual, it is the bedrock on which the melody sits,” writes Noble.

“We seemed to have lost harmonic biodiversity. All the complex and unusual chords have gone the way of the dodo and we are left with the same three or four triads over and over again, a diet of I, IV, II and V.” This might account for the selections on this disc not venturing into the realms of the new and more adventurous (perhaps lesser known) musicals, emerging on the scene today. Of course, the producers at ABC Classics could have released many more than one CD of songs that would fit the criteria of this particular conductor. Hopefully, they will in years to come, further capturing some of the great musical theatre talent in this country.