I think I was looking forward to this third in the series of unimaginatively-named concert CDs even more than the last; and I rather like the fact that many of the songs come from less well-known shows, so there's not a lot that one's heard done several times before. Maybe it's just because this is still (almost a year later, when I'm finally getting around to "reviewing" it) "new", but I believe it may be my favourite overall. Forget the fact that I also said that of Still In Love With Musical, this time I mean it. Until they release a fourth, at least....
While I'm one of the seemingly few people who actually kinda like Façade from Jekyll & Hyde, it's the version from the 1995 concept album that I'm fond of; in fact, as with everything else about this show, that's really the only version I'm familiar with. So it's a bit odd to hear what I presume are the newer lyrics.... Beyond that, I consider this one of those songs that works a bit better with more than a handful of voices.
I've always hated This is the Moment, however; one TV performance aside, not even Anthony Warlow can get me to enjoy this song. So it's no surprise that I don't really care for Uwe Kröger's, either.
After the J&H comes a series of songs from The Life, and the fun begins. While it's never going to be one of my favourites, when I do listen to it People Magazine is fun, bouncy. Viktor Gernot's great as always, and as keeps happening on this recording, for some reason Marika Lichter doesn't bother me nearly as much as elsewhere.
I Wanna Piece of the Action is definitely one of my favourites from this CD. As always on this type of upbeat, energetic song, Gernot's great. Quite simply, loads of fun.
Much the same can be said for his duet with Pia Douwes, We Gotta Go. She sounds a bit shrill, perhaps, but it's still a very enjoyable track.
I Remember You/Dixie's Dream, from For the Boys, is, alas, rather forgettable. It is, however, a big improvement over the Kröger/Lichter duets on the previous albums.
Perhaps my favourite track from this CD is Back on Base. It's been a long time since I've heard the Closer than Ever cast album, but I can't imagine anyone doing a more beautiful job with this song than Douwes.
I had initially hoped she'd also be the one doing Gold von den Sternen, but unfortunately for me it's Lichter instead. It's been long enough since I've listened to Mozart that I can't really tell if this version is a bit slow or only seems that way, but in either case, I'll stick with Lenneke Willemsen. While Lichter starts out all right, if nothing special, that strident quality that I dislike so much about her voice soon makes an appearance.
The Riddle is, like Façade, a bit hard for me to judge properly. I didn't like the "new" version of this song when I saw Scarlet Pimpernel, and I don't like it here; I do, however, rather like the duet from the concept album. While it makes sense they'd use the former, allowing all four to take part, I'd much rather have heard this song as a Douwes/Gernot duet. Oh well.
That's followed by another group number, God Bless the Other Ninety-Nine. Though simple, it's enjoyable enough--up to a point. Pretty soon you realise it's one of those insidious tunes that gets stuck in your head for weeks on end, and the fun quickly wears off. Or maybe that's just me....
I still don't think Douwes' and Lichter's voices blend, but it doesn't really seem to detract from I Will Never Leave You (from Side Show). In fact, I actually prefer them over Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner--their pronunciation sounds much more natural, despite being the ones not singing in their native languages, for starters. To my surprise, this has to be included among my favourite tracks on the CD.
Belle, on the other hand...would be ever so much better if they hadn't used the horrid English translation. With this show, best to stick with the original French. Or even the Italian, for all I care...just not the English, please. Gah. Bad lyrics aside, this song really ought to have three voices, not just two (Gernot and Kröger, obviously, in this case). And an orchestra. But mostly, I'm bothered by the lyrics.
In keeping with the surprising lack-of-annoying-Jennifer on this CD, Lichter sounds fine on the beginning of Dreamgirls' One Night Only. By the time I start finding her shrill, the song itself has gotten on my nerves so much that usually I've already skipped over it.
Totale Finsternis. Sigh. Somehow, Kröger and Douwes are lacking the energy needed to really make this song work for me, and neither really sounds their best. Douwes in particular would, IMO, have been considerably better had she just let go and belted it like I know she can; instead, it sounds to me as though she's maybe trying to sound young, even though the verse about "ich will endlich eine Frau sein" has been cut. This song just needs more power than they give it here; I'll stick to memories of Michaela Kovarikova and Jeroen Phaff, thanks.
And we're back to Scarlet Pimpernel, this time with Where's the Girl? I detested this song in the theatre--came completely out of nowhere, didn't seem to fit with the rest of the score, and that horrible purple lighting--yikes! Yet here, out of context, it's pleasant. And unlike with Terrence Mann, one can actually understand what Gernot's singing. The song's never going to be one of my favourites, but here, it's certainly worth listening to.
I can't recall if Easy as Life was already in Aida back when it was still Elaborate Lives, so I'm not sure if I ever heard Heather Headley sing it or not. If so, I'm sure she was excellent, because she just was. But as with so many other songs, I think it unlikely I will come across anyone whose performance of it I personally like more than Douwes'. Lovely.
The only one of the songs on this CD I've seen any of these performers do in person was Sweet Victory Divine. Napoleon's score isn't very strong, and I definitely thought Kröger did this song better in the theatre--quite possibly because you could see him, since probably my favourite aspect of that scene was his facial expressions.
The CD closes with a Lion King Medley; it sounds fine, I just don't happen to like Lion King.
All in all, a highly enjoyable recording!