Whether you are a fan of musical theatre or new to the genre, Dan and Laura Curtis's forthcoming album "Overture" is the ideal bumper package.
Bringing together 25 artists from the US and UK to record a double-album of brand-new songs inspired by the musicals is a stroke of genius from Dan and Laura who, as partners in life and in music, are two of the most creative and talented composers and lyricists on the musical theatre scene today. Put your feet up with a big bag of popcorn and prepare to be entertained - this video of Matt Doyle's contribution to the album is just the ticket to get you in the musical mindset.
Divided into two acts, the album kicks off - as all good shows should - with a cracking overture, before flowing into opening track "One Life", with a beautifully orchestrated backdrop to Melinda Doolittle's rich vocals building to a blast of inspiration. If that's not enough to have you setting out on life's journey at a brighter pace, Courtney Reed's interpretation of "Amelia's Song" provides a beautiful story of growing up and gaining independence "I can circle with the eagles, and I'll start today".
Bringing the pace up with a jazz-pop vibe, James Monroe Iglehart brings excitement to the prospect of a "Crazy Kind of Love". Is he tap dancing along? I'm pretty sure he should be. But the joys of new love are short-lived. "What Happened To Yesterday" offers a soul ballad of regret, beautifully rendered by Marc Broussard. Keep tissues handy, this is a tear-jerker of a song for anyone who has ever known a love gone wrong.
Every collection of musical-theatre inspired music has to include anthems for the actors and artists."When The Curtain Falls" fits the bill perfectly. Behind the glitz and glamour of "the biz" is a brutal industry, which Dan and Laura capture with the help of Natalie Weiss's powerful belt - "When the playbill's gone and your ego's died, how you gonna feel... when nobody cares who you are any more". But it's worth it all for the moment when it all comes together. Don't believe it? Emma Hatton's "Stop The Show" puts it all into perspective "..when I'm there on Centre Stage". Woven through the "Act", these songs offer a glimpse of a play within a play, as the players tell their backstage stories.
Returning to the eternal theme of love on the rocks, Arielle Jacobs, Krysta Rodriguez and Rebecca Luker each provide a different take on a break-up song. While "Are You Playing With My Heart" is plaintive and heartfelt, "Stop Bringing Me Down" is sassy and bold and "Twenty Years" is classically precise. Like different facets of the relationship gem, the contrast is deliciously curious. We want to know the story behind the songs, which is what any good musical score should evoke.
Fortunately, Adam Jacobs is a little more hopeful of being lucky in love, as "No Disguise" provides a good, old-fashioned song of full-on romance. If you are looking for a song for your wedding, this could be it, from the opening chords "You see into my soul like no-ones ever tried before" to the final crescendo "Life is waiting for us if we dare to fly - will you say you'll be mine?"
Closing the first Act, Bryce Pinkham's delivery of "Grimaldi's Soliloquy" provides an intriguing insight into the life of the clown, grief hidden behind the face-paint and with a further nod to the lure of the footlights. Time to take an interval, grab an ice-cream, fill up the popcorn and settle in for Act 2.
Following its own Overture, Act 2 opens with "Brave", which featured in Dan and Laura's cute musical concept video for Disney/Pixar's film of the same name. From beautifully spooky to fiercely challenging Ashleigh Gray's vocals are perfectly pitched for this mini-story of Merida. If you have young Disney fans around, especially red-heads, they are going to love this one.
Time for a dance break. Dan and Laura keep it gentle with "Three Quarter Time", gorgeously romantic and reminiscent of Viennese costume balls. As usual, the orchestration is spot-on, with strings and piano supporting Samantha Hill's effortless soprano. If that's too classical for your taste, Emmanuel Kojo lifts the pace with up-tempo jazz-blues in "Keep Dancing On", bringing the heat of a Louisiana summer night to a winter's evening near you.
Matt Doyle proved he can deliver a heartbreak ballad as Melchior Gabor in Broadway's "Spring Awakening", and as Peter in the recording of my favourite show "Bare", and his talent for dramatic storytelling comes to the fore again in "Playing Games". If you haven't already enjoyed this track, skip back to the video and click "play". Backed by a lazy snare, this track would be as at home in a nightclub as on a theatre stage - look out for an appearance at 54 Below sometime soon. And don't be too concerned that love is doomed to be forever thwarted - the story takes a more positive turn with the emphatic "I Won't Let You Go" from Rachel John before moving into the 11 O'Clock Song - "There's A Dream" with the magnificent vocals of Earl Carpenter, better known as Phantom in the West End and Inspector Javert in Les Miserables on both sides of the pond. If this doesn't lift your spirits, nothing will.
Bringing Charlotte Jaconelli and Jai McDowall together is a demonstration of Dan and Laura's musical imagination and influence. Their duet "Sunshine" is an opportunity to enjoy some tasty harmonies from beautifully blended voices woven together through clever arrangements, tempo lifts and key changes. All it needs at the end is a sigh.
Drawing the show to a close, three songs of hope and destiny provide an uplifting finale, each with their own style and theme. From Will Swenson's advice "Don't give up on yourself, you're stronger than you think you are" in "Stand" through Matthew Ford's cheery song-and-dance ditty "Start Off Each New Day With A Smile" to the chorus of Hannah Elless, Jason Forbach, Kara Lily Hayworth and Adam Kaplan with "Show Me Your Dreams".
To create such an extensive collection of new music with a wide-ranging list of artists whose careers span multiple shows on and off Broadway and the West End is a phenomenal undertaking. Acknowledging the kind support of all of the contributors, including Executive Producer Stacy Swain and Producer Al Steele, Laura Curtis explained that "The name Overture represents both the dramatical context of the album, which is a sweeping journey through a number of common experiences we share in life, but the title also represents the style and structure of the album, we wanted this to feel like a soundtrack for a show."
Daniel Curtis explained more; "Often in Musical Theatre melodies repeat and weave in and out of the story. For this reason we wrote the album as two acts, with an overture at the start of each one. We really wanted this album to feel like every song was related, even though we're moving through and representing different genres of Musical Theatre styles."
As an introduction to Musical Theatre, Overture offers insight into sub-genres within the genre while remaining contemporary and accessible. Seasoned theatre-goers are sure to find something that catches their ear too. Of course, this is music that deserves to be heard live, so look out for Dan and Laura's forthcoming concert at the London Hippodrome Casino on 12 March 2017
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Overture was released on 24 October 2016 - get your copy here
First published in Angry Baby