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Maddie – Original London Cast Recording review

John Barrowman features on a lost classic of British musical theatre.

Maddie

MaddieMaddie is the latest fantastic musical you’ve never heard of to be released by Stage Door. It’s one of those titles that, had the stars aligned more favourably, might have had as successful a run on the West End as it did on the fringe. But this is your chance to hear a ‘lost’ musical that – who knows? – will maybe find itself revived one day.

Maddie began life in the late 1980s and hit the West End in 1997, but not for long…

The story is, it has to be said, daft and unoriginal. The ghost of Maddie, a long-dead wannabe movie star, who was tragically killed on the way to audition for Cecile  B de Mille, takes over the body of a young woman, causing difficulties in her relationship. The early 1980s isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, leaving the revivified Maddie frustrated. Having said that, judged by the songs, Maddie is thoroughly entertaining!

The musical has so much potential, so it’s perhaps unsurprising to see that much of the talent involved in the production has gone on to carve out successful entertainment careers ( such as writer Shaun McKenna, composer Stephen Keeling and producer Kenny Wax). One name that will leap out at today’s audiences is John Barrowman – the omnipresent all-round average entertainer. Though his talents are overstated, Barrowman is at his best in musical theatre, and he’s excellent (and fresh-voiced but recognisable) playing the lead male character of Nick on the second disc.

The interesting feature of this release is that there are two discs crammed with almost fifty songs. The first disc features the original London cast album, which was captured with full orchestra. It has three bonus tracks of brand new recordings that were cut from the original show. Perhaps appropriately, there were many lives of Maddie, and the second disc comprises cut songs and alternate versions with only a piano accompaniment. Nevertheless, the sound quality is great, the songs are by an large better than those on the first disc, and it’s here you’ll find the dulcet tones of Mr Barrowman, who makes the most of the solo Afraid.

The original London cast boasted talent that were no slouches. Lynda Baron (Open All Hours) plays an ageing nympho, whilst Graham Bickley (Bread) plays the young Nick.

The homages to Sondheim are clear. Homage is one thing, but pulling off quality without outright imitation is quite another. Maddie succeeds. Even on a first listen, the songs are robust, enjoyable, and sometimes even moving. Highlights include the duet Don’t Look Back and the full-cast At The Gates.

Whilst the songs are great, the central character of Maddie is ultimately a bit too overbearing, selfish and narcissistic to retain much sympathy, and it’s the peripheral characters who you begin to care for the most.

The failure of Maddie to endure isn’t a commentary about quality, but the harsh lesson of politics, timing, and the cutthroat world of musical theatre. It’s a shame that, like the heroine of the piece, it was cut down in its prime before truly having a chance to shine.

Check it out though. Maddie is a window into what might have been, and a cracking collection of songs that are sure to hit the right notes with musical theatre buffs, and inspire budding composers with a rarely-heard collection of well-constructed and performed songs.

Track Listing: Disc 1 1. Overture 2. Don’t Look Back 3. Maddie Dancing 4. Ghost 5. I’ll Find Time for You 6. Easy 7. Time of My Life 8. Don’t Look Back (Reprise) 9. Star 10. Entr’acte 11. One More Day 12. I’ve Always Known 13. From Now On 14. Afraid 15. Star (Reprise) 16. At the Gates 17. If Not for Me 18. Finale 1 19. Finale 2 20. Feeling This Way with You (Bonus Track) 21. Maybe We Should Marry (Bonus Track) 22. There We Were (Bonus Track) Disc 2 1. In Hollywood 2. How In The World 3. Maddie Dancing 4. Eligible Men (Quartet) 5. Ghost 6. The Schmooze 7. Time After Time 8. Time Of My Life 9. Never Gonna Speak To Him Again 10. Don’t Look Back (Original Version) 11. Star 12. Have You Seen My Wife? 13. One More Day 14. I’ve Always Known (Original Version) 15. Afraid 16. Eligible Men / Star (Reprise) 17. Everything You Want 18. If Not For Me 19. Finale 1 20. Finale 2 21. As We Were 22. Afraid 23. If Not For Me (Original Version) 24. If Not For Me (Revised Version) 25. Finale 2 Record Company: Stage Door Release Date: 14th October 2016

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