BWW CD Reviews: Original Cast Records' NOËL COWARD OFF THE RECORD Is a Gem for Scholars and Noël Coward Fans
Noël Coward left an inedible mark on the world of theatre with his hit plays, musicals, operettas, and revues. His expansive work is studied and revered by scholars, many of whom can trace elements of modern theatrical experiences back to his brand of "wit, satire, and sentiment." Sharing this brand, Original Cast Records' release of Steve Ross' NOËL COWARD OFF THE RECORD takes listeners on a musical journey through Noël Coward's lesser-known repertoire.
With glee, Steve Ross welcomes listeners to NOËL COWARD OFF THE RECORD by letting us know that the songs collected on this disc are being recorded for the first time and by reminding us that "even B-List Noël Coward isn't half bad." To be honest, it's not. However, it's not wholly fascinating either for those of us who aren't diehard Noël Coward fans.
The ditties on the album are spry, bouncing along with vigor. The sly lyrics are full of panache. The melodies are quaint reminders of the musical stylings of the popular theatrical tunes from 1917 through the mid-1950s. As listeners move from song to song, Steve Ross stops along the way to discuss how Noël Coward progressed as an artist or to give historical insight into the selection of tunes picked for the album. All of these elements truly serve to make NOËL COWARD OFF THE RECORD a gem in the collection of a theatrical scholar or Noël Coward fan.
With gusto, Steve Ross sings many of the tracks with tangible energetic pizzazz. Jeanne Lehman, who sings with authority and appealing control, joins him on the album. Likewise, Lisa Reigel steps in for some of the tracks, sharing her dulcet vocals with listeners. Lastly, Edward Hibbert charms with his rendition of "We've Got the Country at the Corner of the Street," which is a dark and nicely satiric handling of the post-World War II life of working class Londoners.
Unfortunately, none of the tracks are of note to me. The songs bop along, but none are particularly memorable for me. None stick out to me as moments of sheer musical brilliance. This is not to take away from the legacy that Noël Coward has left behind, but to merely acknowledge that his work, as captured on this album, simply doesn't fascinate me. It doesn't spark inside my spirit or heart. It doesn't make me feel anything. Conversely, I'm sure any true fan of Noël Coward will adore this record and cherish Steve Ross for recording these once extremely popular songs that now exist as rarities previously relegated to dusty corners of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and a handful of private libraries as well.
Original Cast Records released Steve Ross' NOËL COWARD OFF THE RECORD physically on January 29, 2013 and digitally on August 1, 2014. The album can be purchased from Footlight Records' online store, iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.
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