The British seem to love to make stage musicals out of film musicals. In the last 2 decades or so, High Society, Singing in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz have been lifted from the silver screen and transplanted onto the stage with varying degrees of success.
The most recent film to make the transition is the disco dance film, Saturday Night Fever. It seems truly bizarre to me that anyone would want to attempt this since there are no "book" songs to speak of and only songs that accompany the dancing. Nevertheless, it has been done and is currently playing in the West End. For this production, a new book has been provided by Nan (The Scarlet Pimpernel) Knighton and there are additional songs by the Bee Gees, who wrote the original score.
Prior to the release of the full cast album, Polydor Records has released a CD single. Adam Garcia, who is playing Tony Manero, has recorded the Bee Gees classic, "Night Fever." Mr. Garcia isn't much of a singer, but then again, I assume he was hired more for his dancing ability than singing ability since the role is more of a dancing role.
There are three different versions featured on this single: a dance-pop version, the stage version and a dance remix. While the name "Saturday Night Fever" has been synonymous with 70s disco and conjures images of mirrored balls, white suits and bell bottoms, this new recording does not. The two dance versions have been updated for the 90s, sounding more like today's dance music. The stage version sounds as if it has become a character song for Tony Manero to sing, with a sparse arrangement that builds as the song comes to an end.
I guess we will have to wait and see how this song fits into the rest of the show, when the cast album is released.
Andrew Lloyd-Webber's newest musical, Whistle Down the Wind, recently opened in London after a year of rewrites following a disastrous run in Washington, D.C. To coincide with this new production, Really Useful Records has released a second single from the show, the first being the children's anthem, "When Children Rule the World."
Tina Arena was chosen to sing the title song for this release. I do not how it is supposed to sound in the show, but it is given the big ballad treatment here and is reminiscent of a Celine Dion performance. Miss Arena possesses a lovely soprano voice which is perfectly suited to the material and arrangement.
Also included on this disc is the pop version of "The Perfect Year" sung by Glenn Close that was released as a CD single when Sunset Boulevard premiered in L.A. in December of 1993. Because that single is out of print, this new disc will be of interest to die-hard ALW fans who missed it the first time.
As a tease for the upcoming Cats video, "Jellicle Ball" has been included here as recorded for the video.
Robert Guillaume, who starred in Andrew Lloyd-Webber's The Phantom of the Opera in L.A. released a solo disc in mid-1997 featuring two songs from Phantom .... For some strange reason, a CD single from this disc was recently released, nearly a year after the release of that solo CD.
Arts Records International has released the CD single of the title song, "The Phantom of the Opera", which includes five different mixes. Three of these mixes sound exactly the same and it is difficult to differentiate one from another. Even the additional track, "Stalking the Phantom", sounds similar. Bach's Tocata and Fugue, which has become associated with the Phantom over the years, is mixed into the intro of these mixes, a nice touch. For this song, Robert sings with Elizabeth Stack, daughter of famed actor Robert Stack. While there have been many techno-versions of this song released over the years, this is the first remix to feature one of the actors who has actually played the Phantom on stage.
This single will certainly be a collectible among Phantom "phans" as it is extremely difficult to find in record stores even now.
While Grease the film is celebrating its 20th anniversary, Australia is being treated to a concert version of the show titled Grease: the Arena Spectacular. Playing Teen Angel in this production is Australia's top musical theater star, Anthony Warlow.
Mr. Warlow has released a CD single of "Beauty School Dropout", which he sings in the show. Also on this single is a 50s song called, "My Prayer", which Mr. Warlow sings at the end of the show as an encore. His rendition of that song is worth the price of the CD. This single is being released on Mr. Warlow's own newly formed label, Skylark, distributed through Warner Bros. A talent like Anthony Warlow is wasted on a musical such as this, but he seems to be having fun with the song and gives it an appropriate 50s treatment, singing in falsetto on the high notes.
Proceeds from this CD go to aid the Sydney Cancer Centre and the Heart Research Institute.
New releases for the summer include the soundtracks of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Man of La Mancha, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Irma La Douce from Rykodisc. These titles were released July 14th.
Producer John Yap has also promised that his complete recording of Sweet Charity, on the JAY label, would be on record stores shelves sometime in July.
TVT Records has recorded the recent Madison Square Garden production of The Wizard of Oz for immediate release. From what I understand, Eartha Kitt recorded a considerable amount of dialogue for the recording; that alone should make it worth the price of the disc. Robert Sher is producing.