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In the age of digital, there are two labels who have the UK theatre recording market sewn up. Gone are the days when First Night or TER/JAY used to release everything that came along. We are now lucky to have SimG Records, who are pioneering the works of new writers and performers, and Stage Door who are committed to preserving ‘Lost’ British Theatre scores from the last 50 years. I’m lucky enough to review for both, and was very excited when I heard that the later, Stage Door, were to release a 2 CD deluxe version of the original London Cast recording of Maddie.
For those who don’t remember, Maddie opened at London’s Lyric Theatre in September 1997, and closed not long after. It was a musical that was in development for nearly 8 years and was based on the Jack Finney novel Marion’s Wall (adapted as the 1986 film Maxie) and featured music by Stephen Keeling, lyrics by Shaun McKenna and book by McKenna and Steven Dexter. Maddie was developed during the Stephen Sondheim Masterclass at Oxford University in 1990. After numerous workshops producer Kenny Wax premiered Maddie at the Salisbury Playhouse on September 5th 1996. After achieving critical acclaim in Salisbury, the production transferred to London’s Lyric Theatre the following year starring Graham Bickley, Summer Rognlie, Kevin Colson and Lynda Baron.
So, to mark the 20th anniversary of Maddie premiering at the Salibsury Playhouse, Stage Door have released a 2 Disc Deluxe Edition presentation of the Original London Cast Album. Featuring 3 new 2016 recordings (performed by Meredith Braun, Dominic Hodson, Moir Leslie and Alister Cameron) plus a bonus disc with 25 previously unreleased studio demos of cut songs and alternate versions performed by an illustrious roster of West End stars including John Barrowman, Jacqui Scott, Matt Zimmerman, Lorna Dallas, John Barr, Angela Richards, Hal Fowler, Mary Millar and Teddy Kemper.
The musical tells the story of Nick and Jan Cheyney who have recently moved into a dilapidated attic apartment in downtown San Francisco. Beneath the peeling wallpaper, they are amazed to uncover a message scrawled in lipstick by 1920s dancer Madeline Marsh. Fascinated by the discovery, they are unprepared for the return of its ghostly author still desperate to become a movie star.
I am one of those lucky enough to remember Maddie first time around, although I didn’t get to see it. 1997 was a strong time in the West End, and Maddie just never made it to the top of my list to see. Sad really, as I bought the original CD release from the much-missed Dress Circle theatre shop, and it’s always been one of my favourite ‘lost’ musicals. It’s a great example of a musical that should have made it, but didn’t. It’s quality writing, and certainly had a quality cast, as can be heard here. It’s a very listenable score, and its songs, I think, rank up there with anything you can compare it to. ‘If Not For Me’ is both a vehicle for Baron’s voice and also for the great orchestrations here by Caroline Humphris. The vocal star on the recording is obviously Rognile, who gets some of the best numbers in the show, including the infections ‘From Now On’ and the big-sounding ‘Star’.
But what I’m most impressed about on this issue are the three 2016 tracks and of course the demos - the real value and interest for any collector like me. They are worth the price and the effort of the release alone. The three 2016 tracks are just wonderful - a perfect blend of great material, and superb performances. The stand out track here, and probably on the album, is Meredith Braun’s recording of ‘There We Were’, but to be honest all three of the tracks have merit. The demos are also extremely listenable, and are accompanied by some fine piano playing too. It was also great to hear John Barr and Jacqui Scott again - in my mind, two of the most underrated theatre actors in the UK.
A worthy release, and ideal for a first time listener, or a collector who just wants more.