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Broken Wings: The Original Concept Album | Review

Broken Wings Album CoverNew York City, 1923. An ageing Gibran narrates from his cold studio. Through poetry and music, he transports us back two decades and across continents, to turn-of-the-century Beirut. His 18-year-old self returns to The Middle East after five years living in America, to complete his education and discover more of his heritage. He falls deeply in love with Selma Karamy, the daughter of family friend and hugely respected local businessman, Farris Karamy. However, Selma soon becomes betrothed to Mansour Bey Galib, nephew of the powerful Bishop Bulos Galib, who has his eye on the Karamy family fortune. Gibran and Selma fight to reconcile their love for one another, whilst navigating the rules, traditions and expectations that society lays on them.

Not all bishops in musicals are as hospitable as the one in Les Misérables, who goes as far as giving away his candlesticks to a man recently granted parole. Broken Wings sees its bishop as someone who has forgotten the teaching of his own religion, namely that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew, chapter xix, verse xxiv). A fleeting look at the (albeit obscure) religious channels on satellite television quickly reveals that it’s a philosophy still discarded today, with fast and frequent solicitations for financial donations for organisations that already have their own television show as it is.

The book by Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), which takes the form of a prose poem, is forward thinking, particularly for a book written in 1912. Questions are raised about the status, not only of the woman the narrator falls in love with, but about the untapped potential of women in general. There are many things the philosophical narrator discusses (the book is genuinely worth a read for its depth of thought), but he seems to genuinely question why women were granted wisdom by the Almighty if they are not given the chance to use it because of the patriarchal society in which they were born into.

For this musical adaptation, the narrator is assumed to be Gibran (Nadim Naaman) himself telling the story about himself (the book is, to be fair, in first person narrative). The younger Gibran (Rob Houchen) is besotted with Selma Karamy (Hiba Elchikhe), but for reasons explained in the story, they will never be husband and wife. The song titles somewhat give away the tragic ending – the three musical numbers before the ‘Finale’ are called ‘Be Free’, ‘Rescue Me’ and ‘Funeral’, and the style of music reflects the rather pensive mood.

I rather like that one of the musical numbers is called ‘So Many Questions’, simply because there are so many asked in the book. Sufficient variation occurs between as well as within the songs: the rise and fall (and rise again) of the music in, for instance, ‘Selma’, also sees Houchen’s voice display versatility, one minute soft and tender, before a hair-raisingly big finish. ‘Holy Matrimony’ captures a variety of feelings and emotions different characters feel about Selma’s big day, while ‘I Know Now’ sounds like one of those Andrew Lloyd Webber ballad numbers. In ‘That Was The Day’, multiple voices combine to sing about Selma with similar sentiments that Tony in West Side Story sings about Maria. The harmonies are a delight to listen to, especially when the full ensemble is in force, as it is in ‘Spirit of the Earth’.

It’s all a little like Jersey Boys, not in terms of plot, but there’s a fair amount of describing events that occurred – the very early years of Gibran’s life, for instance, are not dramatized at all. Flashbacks continue right up to the final number, which has lyrics such as, “I remember the beauty of this place, the beauty of home”. A few musical numbers are suitably upbeat, and overall, while this musical may not be ground-breaking in terms of style – it sits comfortably within the musical theatre genre with its elegant and soaring melodies – this album leaves the listener with a sense of satisfaction that comes from hearing well-written lyrics and a well-composed, majestic score.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Auburn Jam Records is delighted to have released the concept album of major new musical Broken Wings, an autobiographical tale of tragic love based on Lebanese-born poet Kahlil Gibran’s 1912 masterpiece. The show is written by West End star Nadim Naaman (The Phantom of the Opera) and Dana Al Fardan, one of The Middle East’s leading contemporary composers, and with orchestrations by Joe Davison.

Spirit Of The Earth – Broken Wings: A New Musical (Theatre Royal Haymarket 1-4 August 2018)

The concept album cast is headed by Rob Houchen (Les Misérables, Titanic) and Hiba Elchikhe (Princess Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin) as teenage protagonists Gibran and Selma, with composer Nadim Naaman (Raoul in the West End’s The Phantom of The Opera) as Gibran’s older self, the show’s narrator. Adam Linstead (Les Misérables, Cats) plays Selma’s father, with Nadeem Crowe (School of Rock) as Gibran’s friend Karim, and Soophia Foroughi (Lady of the Lake, Spamalot) as Mother. The album also features Gillian Budd, Joseph Claus, Siubhan Harrison, James Hume, Irvine Iqbal, Nikita Johal, Sami Lamine, Leo Miles and Lauren James Ray.

Broken Wings: The Original Concept Album is now available for download on iTunes and will soon be available via all other major online retailers including AmazonMP3 and GooglePlay. Physical CD copies, complete with photos of the workshop and recording cast, as well as concept art by designer Claudio Rosas, can be ordered for worldwide delivery from http://brokenwings.auburnjam.co.uk.

Broken Wings will premiere as a semi-staged production with 9-piece orchestra, directed by Bronagh Lagan and produced by Ali Matar, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from August 1 – 4, where CDs will be available to purchase. Cast to be announced.

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