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Studio Cast Recording of GABRIEL – a new two-act Christmas musical

There are, when one considers the usual round of nativity plays and Christmas concerts that roll around each year, only so many ways to tell the Christmas story. There’s a line in the liturgy of the King’s College Chapel, Cambridge service at Christmas, Nine Lessons and Carols, that makes me smile. The congregation is invited to “prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels” – that is to say it’s a case of, as Yogi Berra apparently put it, déjà vu all over again.

Studio Cast Recording of GABRIELIt seems quite ingenious therefore, to try to tell the story from the perspective of Gabriel (Daniel Boys), who is ordinarily a side note as the messenger sent by God. His thought processes are thoroughly portrayed in this musical – there are things about the birth of Jesus and the circumstances surrounding it that Gabriel is less than comfortable with. This is fair enough, given, for instance, the move by King Herod (David Bedella) to have the infants of Bethlehem slaughtered (which I trust is not a spoiler, at least not for most readers).

The opening number is rousing and upbeat, and this momentum is maintained throughout the first half and well into the second. After the birth, however, there is more time to ponder and reflect, and while the pace of the music and the content of the lyrics reflects this, it feels as though the recording loses its momentum towards the end. That said, I would not go so far as to say it becomes an anti-climax, and perhaps it could be that as cast recordings by their nature do not include sections of musicals in spoken word, hearing the songs in their proper context might well give the later numbers more poignancy.

There are plenty of enjoyable moments in this (overly) familiar story. I note, for instance, the inclusion of Binyamin (Joel Montague) and Sapphira (Olivia Deane), the Bethlehem innkeeper and his wife. It would be giving too much away to state precisely what their involvement is, suffice to say the departure from the usual assumed narrative of the innkeeper being relatively uncaring and leaving the Holy Child to be born in a barn unassisted is refreshing.

The musical styles across the recording are broad, incorporating Jewish style yodelling in an early number and, later, a gospel choir tune. The production is not, however, revisionist in nature – indeed, when Gabriel reveals himself to the wise men (Kit Orton, Ben Stock and Stephen Weller), it is as a being powerful enough to scare them, precipitating an instruction not to be afraid. Whilst a far cry from the typical religious portrayal of angels as benign forces, it’s a lot closer to the biblical account.

For this reason, it’s possible that some churches may well support a future production of this musical (or at least not bother with their placards of protest). Many elements of this story, as told in this recording, are relatable to the modern world. Perhaps not so much the religious devotion or traditionalist views – Joseph (Stuart Matthew Price) and Mary (Lauren Samuels) come in for some criticism by those who have assumed they have had bedroom activity before marriage – but the political tyranny, and ordinary people making their way through life despite multiple obstacles, certainly has its modern equivalents. A lively and spirited recording.

‘Gabriel’, a new fun, upbeat, and inspiring family musical, with music and lyrics by Andrew Fisher and book by Andrew Fisher and Nick Stimson, will be released on December 14th by SimG Records.

Gabriel is given the job of relaying messages from Heaven to Earth as they arrive, and in this task sees his chance to earn his much-longed-for promotion to the status of archangel. But Gabriel has no idea of what is actually coming, and, indeed, has his own set of expectations about how God ought to do it. Roman Palaces, luxury, raised by philosophers, every possible privilege – that must be the plan, right?

The all-star cast is headed by:
Daniel Boys (‘Falsettos’, ‘Spamalot’, ‘Avenue Q’ – WhatsonStage Award Best Takeover in a Role) as Gabriel Lauren Samuels (‘Bend It Like Beckham’, ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘Grease’ in the West End) as Mary Stuart Matthew Price (Riff Raff in ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, Stix in ‘Shrek The Musical’ as Joseph and three-time Olivier award-winner David Bedella (‘&Juliet’, ‘In the Heights’, ‘Jerry Springer the Opera’) as King Herod.

With James Gillan (Tray Sophisticay in ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’), Joel Montague (‘Waitress’, ‘School of Rock’, ‘Falsettos’), Kit Orton (‘Oliver!’ at the Watermill and the West End production of ‘Spamalot’), ), Ben Stock (Eugene in ‘Grease’, Inventor in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and Victor Saville in ‘Over My Shoulder: The Jessie Matthews Story’), and Stephen Weller (‘The Producers’, member of the international vocal group The WestEnders).

Gabriel Studio Cast Recording CD

TRACK LISTINGS

1. Heaven Has a Plan (Daniel Boys & Chorus)
2. Mary (Stuart Matthew Price & Lauren Samuels)
3. I Bring Word (Daniel Boys & Chorus)
4. Why Choose Me? (Lauren Samuels)
5. Mary (Reprise) (Stuart Matthew Price)
6. Following The Star (Kit Orton, Ben Stock & Stephen Weller)
7. The Wedding (Company)
8. Roman Bureaucrat (James Gillan & Chorus)
9. Herod’s Crib (Chorus)
10. Bow Down (David Bedella & Chorus)
11. Onwards! (Company)
12. Make Hay! (Joel Montague & Chorus)
13. I Spy (James Gillan, Joel Montague & Kit Orton)
14. Push! (Daniel Boys, Olivia Deane, Stuart Matthew Price, Lauren Samuels & Chorus)
15. The Birth (Olivia Deane & Chorus)
16. He’s My Son (Stuart Matthew Price & Lauren Samuels)
17. Myrrh, Incense, Gold (Kit Orton, Ben Stock, Stephen Weller & Lauren Samuels)
18. Why Choose Me? (Reprise) (Stuart Matthew Price, Lauren Samuels & Chorus)
19. Find Another Route (Daniel Boys, Kit Orton, Ben Stock, Stephen Weller & Chorus)
20. Political Necessity (David Bedella & Choru)s
21. He’s My Son (Reprise) (Stephanie Prior, Dani Gambier, Jade Pearce, Stephanie Amies, Olivia Deane & Charlie Hawkins)
22. Empty Throne (Daniel Boys & Chorus)
23. One Day (Daniel Boys & Choru)
24. A Tale Of Wonders / Onwards (Daniel Boys, Stuart Matthew Price, Lauren Samuels & Company)
25. Heaven’s Plan’s A Mystery (Daniel Boys & Chorus)
26. One Day (Reprise) (Daniel Boys & Chorus)

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