BWW Album Review: John Owen-Jones Shines On With New Solo Album, SPOTLIGHT
John Owen-Jones is best known for two distinctive roles - Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera. He has played Jean Valjean on the West End, Broadway, and in the 25th Anniversary International Tour productions of Les Mis, becoming the youngest actor to play the role when he first took it on at age 26. Owen-Jones was also at one time the longest running Phantom in the London production of the show, but his record has since been passed. Despite having played these two definitive roles, John Owen-Jones has an incredible range as an actor and a singer, something that he showcases on his new album, Spotlight.
Spotlight is Owen-Jones' fourth studio album and features thirteen tracks. The songs he sings on the album are incredibly varied, ranging from Rodgers & Hammerstein to Pasek & Paul. While Owen-Jones does give nods to his two best-known roles, they are not exactly what you'd expect. He sings a heart-wrenching rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream," the famous female ballad from Les Mis, though he does switch the pronouns in the lyrics so that he is referring to a female lost love, rather than a male one, which doesn't seem that necessary. He gives a somber rendition of "Love Never Dies," the title song from Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera sequel, which is originally sung by the character of Christine. He also performs a number from Ken Hill's The Phantom of the Opera musical adaption as a bonus track, a show that not many people may be aware predates the Lloyd Webber adaption.
He gender-swaps a third track on the album, sweeping "Climb Every Mountain," from The Sound of Music. This song begins rather oddly, with the orchestra beating out an almost militaristic pattern and it transitions away from that into a more traditional orchestration, which builds to a powerful climax that shows up Owen-Jones' high notes. The other Rodgers and Hammerstein tune on the album, "Some Enchanted Evening," contrasts nicely with this, as Owen-Jones sings the romantic song lightly but deftly.
While some actors known for their tenor voices cram their repertoire with only songs that allow them to belt to the skies, Owen-Jones shows off the true range of his voice. The opening track of the album, "From Now On," from the movie The Greatest Showman, begins with Owen-Jones singing in a very low range, but each note is resonant and rich. The true highlight of the album may be his performance of "Evermore," a new song from the 2017 live-action movie of Beauty and the Beast. The song is a perfect fit for the timbre of his voice and shows of both his low and high range. Owen-Jones builds the song towards its climax beautifully, singing with incredible emotion and embodying the character of the Beast.
While Spotlight is sure to be loved by musical theatre fans familiar with its songs, it also has great appeal for the average listener, due to John Owen-Jones' captivating voice, which he shows off its full range on this album.