BWW Review: MADDIE 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition London Cast Album
Further empowering their ethos of preserving 'lost' British theatre, Stage Door Records are releasing their latest cast album, Maddie, with a 20th Anniversary Deluxe edition bumper pack of a CD.
Originally developed at Oxford University in 1990 during a Stephen Sondheim masterclass, emerging and ambitious producer Kenny Wax opened the show at Salisbury Playhouse in 1996 following a series of workshops. The production then went on to open in the West End the next year following superb reactions from the critics. The two-disc album includes the original recording, alongside a collection of studio demos which include cut songs and alternate versions, and three bonus tracks recorded this year.
The show centres around Nick and Jan, a couple who have recently moved to San Francisco. Upon renovating the house, they come across a message on the wall drawn in lipstick by esteemed 1920s dancer Madeline Marsh. Little did they know that she has unfinished business and would soon appear again.
Based on Jack Finney's novel Marion's Wall, the book is written by Shaun McKenna (also lyricist) and Steven Dexter. The score by Stephen Keeling is catchy and elements of repetition keep the story grounded. Whilst the book appears to flow well, the lyrics tell a story within the individual musical numbers as they should, but are not particularly imaginative.
Maddie certainly has a Hollywood glamour feel to it and occasionally sways into the realms of City of Angels and Sunset Boulevard in its feel. The trumpet-led overture and entr'acte are inviting at the top of each act, and many of the musical numbers are very character-driven. With both Jan (Summer Rognlie) and museum patron Cordelia (Lynda Baron) being used at different times to play the infamous Ms Marsh whilst being possessed by her, it's a difficult job for both performers to separate out their two characters.
Ultimately they do so successfully and their vocals alone define who they are playing. As a personal preference, Baron's vocals are richer as Marsh as occasionally Rognlie's can become a little sickly - however are very pleasing when playing Jan. This said, Rognlie has the sassy seductress side of Marsh perfected and this shines through during "I'll Find Time For You" and "Easy".
Graham Bickley, playing Nick, exercises superb vocals throughout, particularly during "Ghost" and "Afraid". It is very interesting to hear the alternate versions of these songs, sung respectively by John Barr and John Barrowman. All excellent in their own right, but a clear difference in intent.
Whilst the cut songs and alternate versions are extremely interesting, there are more tracks than on the cast album itself. A select few would have perhaps been a little more suitable for impact. One of the new tracks, "There We Were", is sung exceptionally by Meredith Braun and is actually favourable to "Finale 1" used on the album.
An intriguing production, but ultimately a show that needs to be seen as well as heard.
Maddie is available from 14 October 2016 at www.stagedoorrecords.com.