Like most of the UK public, I first noticed Helena Blackman when she came second in the very first cast-a-show-by-TV programme, "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" Since then, her outstanding talent has lead to a range of roles in great musicals by composers including Hammerstein and Sondheim. Now, some of her favourites by the former (her personal inspiration) are captured on this intriguing debut album.
The best numbers are those in which her very obvious ability as a musical character actor shines. Early in the CD, her Nellie Forbush should have a word with her Julie Jordan. `Washing that Man Right Outta My Hair" is probably the perfect antidote to the wonderfully forlorn and resigned New England dreamer's "What's The Use of Wondrin'" thoughts. Positioning these two tracks early on and together is a clever move, highlighting the dramatic range of Helena Blackman's voice.
"It Might As Well Be Spring," confirms Ms Blackman's character creating abilities. Her take on this lesser known "State Fair" number feels fresh and unique, leading well into the middle section of the recording.
A rather relaxed "If I Loved You" blends into "Something Wonderful," - a spine-tingling rendition straight from the heart. It's also the better of her two "King and I" selections. "I Have Dreamed" (duet with Jonathan Ansell) seems a little too quick, without the same time to develop a rapport that she gets later with Daniel Boys (another "TV casting" find) in "People Will Say We're in Love." This time, we know exactly who call the shots in her relationships... tread carefully, gentlemen.
Between these two, "Some Enchanted Evening," and "Love Look Away" (like the earlier "If I Loved You" and "I Have Confidence") seem more `cabaret' in rendition. Not a criticism; it's just noticeable that `Helena sounding relaxed' just isn't the same as `Helena animating a character.' Rather suggesting scope for a separate solo Lounge career beside her show one, really.
"The Gentleman Is A Dope" seemingly confirms this theory, being a song that she addresses in both forms - with strong character driven comedy, and adding a definite `penultimate number in a solo show' feel to leave the crowd looking forward to the encore.
This is provided by the curious choice of "Climb Every Mountain" as a finale. It's done well enough, but it is a song sung by a very `mature' nun. Sensibly, Ms Blackman is obviously lining up work for a few decades ahead when `The Sound Of Music' is revived and she can take the role - to perfection, undoubtedly.
Before that day, though, Helena Blackman does (as she should do), "Enjoy Being a Girl" here, as much as sharing with us her enjoyment of being a musical theatre performer. As her experience broadens, and before deciding she is ready for the wimple and habit, there are obviously some wonderful years ahead. Let us hope it may also result, too, in another album as interesting as this one.