BWW CD Reviews: THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME (Original Cast Recording) is Charming
According to Jessica Walker, she spent much of her career playing trouser roles, characters requiring her to dress as men, in opera and musical theatre. As chance would have it, someone mentioned to her that she bore resemblance to Victorian male impersonator Vesta Tilley, and from her curiosity the kernel for a unique one-woman show entitled THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME was planted. With Director and Co-Writer Neil Bartlett, Jessica Walker crafted a variety show that explores and celebrates this once loved but now almost entirely forgotten aspect of performance history. Following successful runs in England and at 59E59, late in 2013 Original Cast Records released the charming THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME (Original Cast Recording).
Originally commissioned by Opera North in 2010, THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND is an interesting retrospective of the lives and careers of several male impersonators, including Vesta Tilley, Hetty King, Annie Hindle, and Miss Ella Wesner. The production had its World Premiere on May 15, 2010 in the Howard Assembly Room at Opera North in Leeds. Its US Premiere ran from April 30, 2013 through May 19, 2013 at 59E59 Theaters in New York City as part of Brits Off Broadway 2013.
For the album, Joseph Atkins provides fun and fanciful accompaniment on the piano. He and Jessica Walker, who were digitally recorded for the record on September 7, 2013 at PPI Studios in New York City, play well off one another and take tempo and key change cues from each other. Together, the duo brings life to these music hall hits of yesteryear. From the opening chords of the overture, Joseph Atkins provides vigorous accompaniment that bounces with tangible and interesting energy.
Jessica Walker's vocals are full of life and adapt to fit the character of each song on the album. Even though we cannot see her performing these songs on the CD, we can easily imagine how she must have changed her stance and mannerisms as she did her best to recreate the performances that were offered by the male impersonators she embodies on the recording. Across the tracks, audiences hear both her operatic and musical theatre sensibilities, blending the differing musical styles to generously give listeners an authentic recreation of the music hall aesthetic.
Furthermore, the album features three bonus tracks that were not included in the original production for various reasons. These three bonus tracks round out the experience and offer at home listeners more to experience and enjoy about this abandoned niche of performance.
Like any one-performer show, the original cast recording for THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME plays out like a cabaret. Here the subject matter celebrates women who made careers impersonating men, offering an altogether fascinating glimpse into the Victorian psyche. Jessica Walker sings with skill and Joseph Atkins plays with precision, making each track enjoyable to hear.
Listen to Jessica Walker sing "Sally" in the Recording Studio:
Original Cast Records released THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME (Original Cast Recording) on November 13, 2013. The album can be purchased from Footlight.com, iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, and elsewhere music is sold.
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