Much Ado about cast recordings

Whenever a new musical comes to the West End, there’s always a bit of a buzz about a possible cast recording. Different productions take wildly different views: Love Never Dies put its cast recording on sale so far in advance that it was more of a concept album than a record of the eventual stage production, in any of its reworked forms. Legally Blonde the Musical waited until there was obvious demand for a West End version in addition to the original Broadway recording, while Stiles and Drewe’s magnificent music for Betty Blue Eyes may eventually be available next month (although a sampler CD was issued with the Evening Standard newspaper as part of the show’s initial publicity drive). And while Ghost the Musical, which holds its press night tomorrow, hasn’t officially released its cast recording yet, it’s currently available to listen in a streamed form on the show’s Facebook page.

What’s unusual, though, is for a straight play to release a cast recording. But the production of Much Ado About Nothing currently playing at Wyndham’s has done just that.

Michael Bruce’s music takes period poetry, such as Shakespeare’s It Was a Lover and His Lass, and converts them into songs that fit the play’s 1980s setting. As I said in my review:

The setting, an early 1980s Mediterranean naval community (the programme suggests Gibraltar), works extremely well, helped substantially by Michael Bruce’s original music, which echoes hits of the era without stepping on any copyright toes

What I didn’t appreciate at the time (you don’t, when it’s essentially providing a backdrop to a Shakespearean comedy) is that it’s damned fine listening in its own right.

The album is available now on iTunes, and also includes a couple of bonus tracks featuring the play’s Beatrice and Benedick, Catherine Tate and David Tennant. There’s a second version of Sigh No More, as well as a new track, We Go Together, a track which I believe was originally planned for inclusion on Michael’s album Unwritten Songs, but sounds great as a comic duet by the pair.

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Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.