When I was much younger I would devour musical cast recordings, I’d love to pick up the latest new musical (particularly if a performer I liked was in it). I remember picking up a copy of ‘Avenue Q’ from the Dress Circle about two years before the show transferred, by this time I’d lost interest in buying cast recordings as they were all so expensive and it became harder to find new musicals that sounded half decent.
It was part of the reason I decided to go see the ‘Dress Circle Benefit Concert’, it’s not very often you get to hear an array of musicals performed by top performers (sometimes the original!) with a thirty-piece orchestra. I’m pretty sceptical regarding the reasons behind the concert, I don’t really mind that it’s a benefit for a shop as why not? If it matters to you and you care about it I think you can have a benefit for anything, but I do think the Dress Circle has been struggling for too long to be able ‘saved’ by a tribute concert. Apparently most of the money raised has gone for paying for the orchestra so really it was a bit of a self-indulgent moment for the producers to do a bit of social networking and get their name on the map.
The concert itself I thought was a bit “meh”, it was amazing to hear the music played by such an impressive orchestra and there were really some great performances (Ellen Green singing Somewhere that’s Green for one, and Peter Polycarpu singing Bui-Doi) but it really did highlight why there aren’t as many ‘great’ musicals around as there used to be. Back in the late 80s/early 90s you had some super-star blockbuster musicals hitting the West End (‘Les Miserables’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’, ‘Miss Saigon’…) and I realised during the concert that those musicals that have endured and found lasting fame have great songs that can be sung out of context, just look at the songs that have hit the charts ‘One Night in Bangkok’, ‘I Know Him So Well’, ‘Memory’ (etc) – you don’t need to know the musicals in order to understand the song.
I started thinking about this because I was listening to ‘The Book of Mormon’, which sounds fine and I’d be interested in seeing it performed but to me it feels like ‘Jerry Springer the Opera’. Interesting concept, excellent performances and moments of brilliance but will struggle to find a long-term audience. Now, if only ‘The Addams Family’, ‘Memphis’, ‘Catch Me if You Can’ and ‘Wonderland’ were cheaper!