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Hamlisch Uncovered


Music: Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics: Various
Performed by: Kelli O'Hara, Randy Graff, Tony Sheldon, Hayden Tee, Nancy Opel, Leah Horowitz, Marissa McGowan, Lisa Brescia, Klea Blackhurst and Steven Brinberg
Label: Broadway Records
Release Date: 26 January 2018 (CD); 15 December 2017 (Digital)

I was very fortunate to spend a week in London a few years ago, in part to see the first Royal Albert Hall concert appearance by one of my favourite musical theatre stars, Idina Menzel. Conducting the excellent Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra was perhaps one of my all-time heroes, the composer Marvin Hamlisch. Famous for so much, not least the musical that got me interested in musical theatre, A Chorus Line, I was secretly looking forward to seeing him more than Idina. I was also lucky in securing a front-row seat to An Evening With Marvin Hamlisch on the following evening, and even more fortunate to meet him afterwards (in fact, I also found him a cab!) and being able to have quite a long chat with him. Sad to say, this was to be my first and last meeting with him, as a few months later he passed away at the age of 68. A loss of incomparable sadness to me.

One of the few good things to come out of his untimely death is several CD and DVD releases of his lost material and concerts, although not, in my mind, in anything like the quantity his talent deserved.

When Hamlisch passed away in 2012, he left behind a number of scores that didn't go into the recording studio. With Hamlisch Uncovered, producers Michael Lavine, Chip M. Fabrizi and frequent Hamlisch collaborator Craig Carnelia unleash a treasure trove of unrecorded songs, including songs from the original version of Smile (lyrics by Carolyn Leigh), Ballroom (lyrics by Alan & Marilyn Bergman), his final musical The Nutty Professor (lyrics by Rupert Holmes), and several songs from his scores with Craig Carnelia: Imaginary Friends, Bullets Over Broadway and Sweet Smell of Success.

Featuring a bevy of Broadway luminaries including Kelli O'Hara, Randy Graff, Tony Sheldon, Hayden Tee, Nancy Opel, Leah Horowitz, Marissa McGowan, Lisa Brescia, cabaret stars Klea Blackhurst and Steven Brinberg, alongside several new voices, this is a must-have album for fans of his, but also for those musical theatre fans who appreciate quality, and sometimes totally unknown material.

Hamlisch’s work has always been a discussion point. How can someone have such monumental successes, with A Chorus Line and (lesser so) They’re Playing Our Song, not to mention his film scores, but then hit such a period of almost musical theatre obscurity. Mention the likes of Sweet Smell Of Success or Smile to most people and you will get blank looks. Even more so The Nutty Professor or Jean Seberg. Yet hum the first bar of ‘One’ or ‘What I Did For Love’ and most will name the song, and even show and composer to boot. I can’t think of anyone else who this is true for on such scale. An EGOT too (look it up).

The work captured on here goes some way to explain that, and some way to making It as bigger mystery as ever. There’s no bad songs on here, but there’s ones that are perhaps less memorable than they should be. There are however moments of pure joy.

I’ve always liked the woefully under-rated score to Smile, and it was great to hear other numbers apart from the title song, and ‘Disneyland’. Here we get 5 numbers, ending with a gorgeous version of 'Six O’Clock News' by Daisy Carnelia. As is so often the case with Hamlisch, a perfect blend of music and lyrics, but a pretty much unknown song. Music only in this case - lyrics by the late Howard Ashman in this case. I loved the number from Ballroom (again, nice to hear something other than ‘Fifty Percent’ by the Bergmans) and the multitude of numbers from his collaboration with Craig Carnelia Imaginary Friends. A great selection of songs and some wonderful performances. But my favourite song is from the musical that Hamlisch was working on up to his death, a musical version of the movie The Nutty Professor, collaborating with Rupert Holmes. I defy you to find a more perfect song than ‘While I Still Have The Time’ to sum up Hamlisch’s life.

Anything I would have wished for to improve the album? 2 CDs? 3 CDs? Demos? Live performances? All pure greed, and not really what this album was about. It’s quality, and also a pleasing amount of quantity. I would have liked to hear some of these fully orchestrated (the charts do exist for some, and the piano accompaniment at times was insufficient and at others obtrusive) but a minor point. One thing that could not be improved is the booklet - probably one of Robbie’s best and a fitting tribute.

This has been a difficult review to write on so many levels - not least because it’s hard to be subjective about the work of someone you hold in such high esteem, who’s work is so important to your own musical theatre identity, released by a label who you respect a great deal. It’s also been hard to stop listening to it long enough to put fingers to a keyboard, so this review is also probably two weeks overdue. This is an album that has secured a place on my iPod (not an honour bestowed on that many CDs these days) for many years to come.


Ian Gude

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