Coming soon: Michael Bruce’s Unwritten Songs

Speckulation Entertainment seem to be on a real roll at the moment. As well as Helena Blackman’s wonderful collection of Rodgers and Hammerstein classics, in a couple of weeks’ time they will release a CD of songs written by composer Michael Bruce.

Michael first came to my attention when he entered a competition they ran (under the banner of their Notes from New York brand) in conjunction with The Stage to find a new Christmas song in a musical theatre style. Michael’s song, Children, is a just beautiful, plaintive ballad that became one of my personal highlights of both the Christmas in New York shows and the subsequent cast recording. Since then, as well as orchestrating some of Speckulation’s other works (including some of Helena’s album, and the musical ads for he’s been working on various projects, the biggest and most recent of which is composing music for the forthcoming version of Much Ado About Nothing which is to star David Tennant and Catherine Tate.

Back in November 2009, a one-off show at the Apollo Theatre highlighting some of his work drew some of the cream of the West End’s young performing talent. I’m pleased to see that on the just-announced track list for the new CD, Unwritten Songs, many of them will be making an appearance on the CD.

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Ordinary Days/Daniel Boys in Concert, Trafalgar Studios 2

If you have a West End or fringe musical set in contemporary New York and populated by people in their twenties or thirties, these days you pretty much have to call upon Julie Atherton and Daniel Boys. Tick Tick… BOOM!, The Last 5 Years, Avenue Q, I Love You Because… you name it, Julie and/or Daniel has performed it.

And so, Adam Gwon’s musical, which focuses on the lives of four young people in the City That Never Sleeps, is in safe hands when Boys and Atherton take the two principal roles of Jason and Claire, a couple who are adjusting to having moved in together. He is puppyishly optimistic about the whole prospect, while she is more reticent.

The 80 minutes running time, already short, makes the couple’s ups and downs seem very slight, especially as their stage time is shared with the burgeoning friendship between two other New Yorkers – naif, gay, would-be artist Warren (Lee William-Davis) and Deb, a hyper-tense postgraduate student (Alexia Khadime). The two pairs rarely connect, although the actions of Warren and Deb do precipitate the conclusion to Jason and Claire’s story.

While the songs feel well crafted, ask anybody leaving the show and they may have trouble recalling them. What they will be left with is the memory of funny lyrics, expertly delivered by four young actors who fully commit to the roles, and help make a musical that covers much the same ground as so many other new musicals feel fresh.

* Buy Ordinary Days on CD (via or download from iTunes.

Later last night, Daniel Boys performed a solo concert in the same space, accompanied by Douglas Whyte, who arranged the songs on Daniel’s 2008 album, So Close.

Boys has promoted the album with a succession of cabarets since its release, but this performance was described as a new set, celebrating his first decade working as a professional musical theatre performer. And we did get a few great numbers from some of the shows he has been involved in, from Rent to Sweeney Todd – although I was slightly disappointed that nothing from Avenue Q or I Love You Because snuck in there, as I would have loved to hear the latter’s Goodbye sung live again.

Despite the billing, most of the cabaret did seem to hail from the track listing of So Close. This is not a complaint: I love that album, and barely a fortnight goes by when I haven’t listened to it all at least once, and his rendition of the Alan Menken/Stephen Schwartz title number easily beats the original rendition from Disney’s animated/live action comedy Enchanted.

But really, any songs performed by such a great performer in the intimate space of Trafalgar Studios 2 can’t fail but be fun. If you’re free next Friday evening, I’d recommend it. Julie Atherton is doing a similar concert on Wednesday evening, too – unfortunately I’m busy elsewhere that night, or I’d be there like a shot.

* Buy “So Close” on CD or as an MP3 download (both via