MADDIE 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition London Cast Album - Review by Greg Jameson for Entertainment Focus

 

Maddie 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 entertainer. 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.

****

Reviews for the Maddie 20th anniversary

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MADDIE Stage Whispers Review

 

Maddie is another film-to-stage work which played in the West End in 1997. It is set in the 1980's and is based on the novel Marion's Wall by Jack Finney, about a flamboyant flapper who inhabits the body of an 80's woman and seduces her husband.

 

The musical was developed during the Stephen Sondheim musical theatre course at Oxford in 1990. Caroline O'Connor performed extracts of the show in its first public showing. It was later performed at Salisbury Playhouse in 1996, and on the strength of Charles Spencer's Telegraph review - "This is the show we've been waiting for" - moved to the West End the following year.

 

This 2CD recording features the original cast plus cut songs, studio demos and alternate versions. The music is inventive and the lyrics are literate.

 

Listening to the cut material is a very good example of what was lost in its commercial production. "In Hollywood" (cut) was a good opening number, Meredith Braun's newly recorded "There We Were" is a nice ballad, but it's Jacqui Scott whose vocals are outstanding on "I've Always Known" and "Star".