There have been a number of album releases in the past six months from some inspiring talents emerging in the field of musical theatre, but while I never fail to be excited by this growing development, I by no means am any less excited when the musical offering comes from a different source altogether.
There are always new cast recordings popping up from the latest show in town; the recording of the popular West End production of Sweeney Todd, fresh from Chichester, was recently released, for example. It doesn’t have to be the new kid on the block which excites theatre fans though. I only saw Wicked for the first time this year when I went along to review the cast change, and I fell in love with it there and then. At my daughter’s insistence, I bought the Broadway recording (calls for a new London cast recording continue to fall on deaf ears) and it is now one of our favourite in-car CD’s.
There have also been some recent individual efforts from several of the West End’s established performers, most notably Phantom and Love Never Dies star Ramin Karimloo. The self-titled album Ramin is the Iranian-born actor’s first release on the Sony record label and to say that it has been flying off the shelves is an understatement. It’s no wonder though; Karimloo is an exceptional talent in possession of a phenomenal voice and his album contains a selection of original songs and covers that truly display his voice to the best of his ability. I’ve seen him onstage in Love Never Dies, alongside Hadley Fraser in their band Sheytoons, performing at West End Bares for MADTrust and was also invited to his album showcase at Cafe de Paris in March 2012 – with every encounter, I’ve never failed to be impressed by his vocal ability. Not only that, but Karimloo is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, which is one of his most endearing qualities and why he has such an immense following of fans that adore him.
Another West End star who is equally as talented is the legend that is John Owen Jones. Most known for the West End roles of Jean Valjean and The Phantom, Jones is currently making his way around the UK with the brand new touring production of The Phantom of the Opera, in which he plays the title character. Despite a busy schedule however, he found time to record a second album, which was released this week. Unmasked follows his 2009 self-titled debut album and features a mix of some of musical theatre’s most popular songs and other classic tracks. Jones has an extraordinary voice that is rich, strong and incredibly emotive. The last time I saw him perform live was in the finale of the 25th Anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall in October 2011, where he sang alongside Ramin Karimloo, Colm Wilkinson, Anthony Warlow and Peter Joback; an unforgettable experience. Hearing him sing, it’s easy to understand why he is considered to be one of the best Phantoms in its entire 25 years history.
A whole host of West End performers have taken the album route: Mark Evans, Annalene Beechey, Stuart Matthew Price and Louise Dearman, to name a few. The latter released her debut album You and I in 2005, and on the 7th May 2012, she’s at it again with her follow-up album Here Comes The Sun. It features her covers of some of the Pop world’s best-loved songs, including a duet with Steve Balsamo on Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’ (one of my favourite songs, incidentally). Theatre fans will never tire of hearing their favourite West End stars sing, and an album is the ideal way to bottle up a little of their talent so that the fans can enjoy their melodious tones whenever the urge takes them. We have already had some tremendous offerings from a number of the West End’s brightest stars and no doubt more will follow. I know there are certain people I would like to see release an album – but who would be your choices?
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 19th April 2012