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5.0 out of 5 stars This Swan is no ugly duckling., 2 Jun 2014
R. Cope "cope2" (UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Swan Esther (Original Cast Recording) (Audio CD)
The latest release by Stage Door Records of ‘forgotten’ musicals is something of a hybrid it seems. The Biblical story of Swan Esther was commissioned by David Land, former manager of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who wanted to find a family musical to rival the appeal of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’. Composer Nick Munns and lyricist J. Edward Olivier were handed this story of a girl who wins a beauty contest and finds herself marrying the King Of Persia. The main body of this CD release is the original concept album of the show featuring a childrens choir (very Joseph) and leads played by West End veterans Clive Carter, Denis Quilley, Stephen Hill and the title role performed by the late great Stephanie Lawrence. The music is very poppy and is a very entertaining listen, and although it does lack Joseph’s killer melodic hooks, there is much to commend this rare recording. A highlight would have to be Stephanie’s “My Love Is Like A Dream”, a lovely ballad in the middle of this choral led musical theatre bonanza. The original Young Vic production ran for a few weeks in late 1983, after which is came to the attention of producer Bill Kenwright who had masterminded Joseph’s touring popularity. He took it on a tour in 1985 under the title “Swan Esther and the King” but not before re-writes were undertaken, the original composers having been joined by John Miller and Shirlie Roden to expand the musical landscape of the piece. This resulted in some excellent additions to the score such as “Men Are Pigs” and “One Love”, and although not recorded for release nine original studio demos are included here. And if that was not enough the CD ends with an hitherto unreleased Stephanie Lawrence track “Here Stands A Man” from Shirlie Roden’s unproduced musical adaptation of “How Green Was My Valley”. This gem is worth the cost of the CD alone and coupled with the other 30 tracks, makes this release an absolute bargain. Stage Door Records have performed their usual miracles on the transfer of the original tapes, the overall sound being far above the standard achieved by lesser companies releasing archive material. It would be interesting to see Swan Esther revived today, to see if the staging would match the fun of the concept album. Fans of British musical theatre would do well to check out this release as it seems unfair it has languished unappreciated for thirty years. This timely rediscovery will, I hope, allow it to be reassessed.
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Swan Esther (Original Cast Recording)
Swan Esther (Original Cast Recording) by Denis Quilley (Audio CD - 2014)
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