Our West End boasts a huge number of highly talented individuals performing on its stages, but every theatre fans will have their own personal favourites. You can’t measure talent on the basis of a fan following alone of course, but fans are there for a reason and the more of them around, the better the performer’s chance of riding their talent all the way to the top. While taking a trip to see a favourite performer in a show is always an undoubtedly worthwhile experience, the ‘every-now-and-again’ opportunity to enjoy their particular vocal talent is unlikely to satisfy fans’ needs; they’re always going to want more. Supply and demand is the backbone of society after all.
Plenty of musical theatre performers have recognised that they have an audience and undergone a mutually-beneficial arrangement with these fans in the form of a music album. They get to express their artistic creativity through the release of a CD of original/cover songs, while their fans get to listen to them sing in the comfort of their own home and whenever they like. John Owen-Jones, Annalene Beechey, Simon Bailey, Stuart Matthew Price, Michael Ball… these are just a few West End performers who have released albums in recent years. One of the biggest albums last year was that of Phantom star Ramin Karimloo, whose self-titled solo album was a world-wide seller, and indeed, makes regular aural appearances in my house. Two more West End stars are supplying for the demand this month though, having recorded their debut albums. The first is released in just four day’s time and comes courtesy of the Irish songbird, Rachel Tucker.
Rachel Tucker, who first shot to fame as a contestant on the BBC1 talent-show contest, I’d Do Anything, has looked back through the songs she’s performed in childhood and her career so far, and handpicked a selection of her favourites to create her debut solo album, The Reason. I’ve heard a preview of all ten tracks; every cover is delivered in her own inimitable style and she sails through all the genres of music with ease, riding on the back of her impressive and wide-reaching vocal ability. There’s a mixture of material which includes popular songs from artists as varied as Celine Dion, Ed Sheeran, Evanescence and Michael Jackson, while also recognising her musical theatre ties with such songs as Tom Eyen’s ‘One Night Only’ from Dreamgirls and ‘I’ll Cover You’ by the cast of Rent. The album wouldn’t be complete without ‘Defying Gravity’ from the Stephen Schwartz musical Wicked however, and Tucker hasn’t disappointed fans with her unique version.
Tucker has starred in a number of West End shows, including playing Meat in We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre). Her definitive role must be that of Elphaba in the West End production of Wicked though. She performed in the role for two and a half years, making her run the longest of any other actress in the show’s history. I saw her during her time with the show. She gave a truly memorable performance and her vocals were just mind-blowingly spectacular. It’s no wonder that she won awards for the role and has firmly cemented herself as an iconic ‘Elphaba’. Her next role comes as Ida in the Guy Unsworth play, Farragut North, opposite Max Irons at the Southwark Playhouse in September 2013.
Her debut album, The Reason, is released by Big Hand Recordings on 12th August 2013, having been pushed back from the previously announced release date of 22nd July 2013 due to time issues. Some of the songs featured in a preview performance at the St James Theatre in London on 25th July as part of her solo concert, with one highlight being the moment when she was joined on stage by her dad (who features on the album), at one point for ‘Duet With My Dad’. Tucker returns to the theatre later this month, following the album’s release, for a CD signing. The event takes place at the St James Theatre from 11am on Saturday 17th August 2013.
The complete track list for The Reason can be found below:
1: Small Bump (Ed Sheeran)
2: The Reason (Celine Dion)
3: I’ll Cover You (Rent)
4: Stone Cold Sober (Paloma Faith)
5: No One But You (Queen – We Will Rock You)
6: One Night Only (Tom Eyan – Dreamgirls)
7: My Immortal (Evanescence)
8: Gone Too Soon (Michael Jackson)
9: Defying Gravity (Stephen Schwartz – Wicked)
9: Duet With My Dad (Al Jonson and Judy Garland)
It seems Tucker is, quite rightly, proud of this first solo effort. Speaking about the album, she said: “I didn’t quite know where to start or even how to choose the songs, but once I realised they needed to come from a place and time in my life that was of meaning and importance, it became clear what I should sing! I am absolutely delighted with the outcome of this album. It was a real joy and a pleasure to make.”
As I mentioned earlier though, Rachel Tucker isn’t the only West End star to have something to be proud of this month. Batting for the West End men’s team is Nadim Naaman, who also releases his debut album in August. Rather than producing an album of personally-meaningful cover songs, he has taken a singer/songwriter direction and created an album which features songs he has written over the last ten years. We All Want The Same is the title of Naaman’s debut album; eleven tracks of original material which embraces a variety of musical genres, including a little bit of pop, jazz and R’n’B alongside the expected musical theatre-style contributions.
Nadim Naaman has a long list of theatre credits to his name, but his West End career began with the role of Rolf in The Sound of Music at the London Palladium. He also spent several years at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the company of The Phantom of the Opera, where he covered the leading role of Raoul on many occasions and to great acclaim. He is currently playing Charles Clark in the UK premiere of Maury Yeston’s Titanic at the Southwark Playhouse and is set to join the cast of One Man, Two Guvnors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in September 2013.
Auburn Jam Music releases his debut album, We All Want The Same on 23rd August 2013. I’ve visited the intimate studio space before for the recording of another singer-songwriter’s album, Joe Sterling, who has a close association with the creative team behind My Land’s Shore which has also used the production company for recording sessions. On the basis of what I’ve seen and heard from these guys so far, Naaman’s album is in highly professional hands of the best quality. He has the added bonus of a few West End stars lending their vocals to feature on duets with him. Siubhan Harrison, who has previously appeared in Les Miserables, We Will Rock You and was recently announced in the full cast for Tim Rice’s upcoming musical From Here To Eternity, is one such guest vocalist who will be heard singing with Naaman on one of the eleven featured album tracks. He will also be performing with Will Barratt (Phantom, Sweeney Todd, Jersey Boys) on a song which he co-wrote with his former Phantom cast mate.
Following its release, there will also be an official album launch at the Union Theatre, Southwark on Sunday 8th September 2013 which Naaman will be attending to sing a selection of songs from both his own album, and those which inspired it. He will be accompanied by a live band and some special guests.
The complete track list can be found below:
1: Do My Best
2: Winter In Paris
3: Sail Away
4) Not With You Anymore
6: The Man That I Could Be
8: We All Want The Same
9: That’s How It Goes
10: July 7th (For A Lost Son)
I’ve had the pleasure of socialising with Naaman on a number of occasions, and in addition to being one of the most talented individuals I’ve encountered in this industry, he is a top-notch guy too. His recording artist-in-crime, Rachel Tucker, is another person who has high praise for him, saying that: “Anyone interested in love, life and musical theatre will adore Nadim’s album. A great collection of songs.” He was also described by West End star Simon Bailey as a “talented, lovely guy and a hugely gifted songwriter.” Speaking himself about his debut album, Naaman said: “”All the songs tell their own story – some are about me, some are about other people, and some inspired by places, events and memories…the songs definitely have a musical theatre flavour, but are more pop/rock than show-tune.”
There are a number of West End stars who I would personally like to see release an album of music and both Rachel Tucker and Nadim Naaman were featured on that list, although fortunately I can now scrub their names off. They are two of our great talents, and judging by my past experiences of them both, their albums are going to be big successes.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 8th August 2013