Forget "reality TV" documentaries. This CD is as close to a genuine "fly on the wall" experience about what goes on in a musical theatre actor's mind (as anybody would probably want to get)... Bawdy and explicit as only theatre humour can be, it's certainly an `after the watershed' listen, in more ways than one.
Conceived as a mixture of songs, plus a few sketches based on real experiences of two friends-in-greasepaint, there's enough material here for a brilliant Edinburgh cabaret evening; and some outstanding comedy writing on display.
It all boils down to just two themes: love, well, sex really; and the frustrations of trying to get acting work when everybody is just out to exploit or humiliate you - sometimes both. The whole album works best if the listener has a) a pretty good working knowledge of theatre jargon and b) a liking for their musical theatre numbers served up "twisted."
Starting the disc as it means to go on, the "Sensitive Song" from musical "Cops" is a prime example of `when theatrical ballads go bad." Combined with later "In Short" (from "Edges") these are flows of outrageous vitriol on the subject of ending relationships. "Love Song" and "Sex" do little to build bridges either, while "Somebody Kill Me" from "Wedding Singer" is simply a suicidal rant invoking hilarity rather than sympathy.
Not helping, the solo alternative, "I'm In Love" may well be picked up by Ann Summers for an advertising campaign and in-store atmosphere music.
There's an upside, though, with several songs about (admittedly slightly depraved) happier times. "The Morning After You Do It" is an openly triumphant celebration... of events probably better kept private. Continuing the disconcerting, "Sensitive Male Best Friend" is combination to worry the ladies, and "To Excess" a bald warning... particularly if your name is Clare. Oh, and neither is likely to prove much of a legal defence either.
The best track on the album, "Lullaby," also won't impress a jury. Neatly capturing the cynicism pervading the whole subject, it's the filthiest but most searingly honest bedtime tune never sung to a child. Writer Stephen Lynch concocts simply the funniest number I've heard in ages - and you'll be humming it (subversively) for hours.
Working the second theme, that of exploring the actor's experience in depth, "I'll Always be the understudy" will have anybody whose `track' is being coveted by that `swing in the wings' watching their backs for sure (told you a knowledge of theatre terms is required!).
Scattered among these songs are a few musical interjections, plus some hilarious / wince-inducingly familiar (depending if you are an actor or not) sketches by Chris and friend Mathew. The best is a cleverly constructed audition, complete with every stereotype that can be crammed behind a folding table in a sweaty hired rehearsal room. Almost as good are the verbatim records, sorry, parodies of conversations with Chris's agent - a man determined to exploit Chris to the best of his abilities... and almost succeeding. With agents (and, in an early sketch) friends like these, no wonder Chris's dreams of superstardom are still unfulfilled.
Still, we do get a superb rendering of "If You Were Gay" from "Avenue Q." The show Chris was starring in at the time the CD was released, it features Jon Robyns and in my opinion surpasses for timing the original cast recording version. There's also "Chips Lament" from "Spelling Bee," again benefitting from immaculate comic delivery. Bonus track, sweetly done "Rainbow Connection" is final confirmation of the hope that strands come together in the end and that talent will triumph, despite advice from friends / agents / casting directors.
Oh, and to complete it, the quotes on the liner notes are worth reading too. A must as a gift for any musical theatre actor, adult musical theatre fan with a twisted sense of humour and any cynic who has learned the hard way what love and life really are.