A Spoonful of Stiles and Drewe – Live Highlights

track listing
1. Flowers for a King,2. Theres No Harm in Asking,3. Wait a Bit,4. Joy of Motherhood,5. Never Land,6. Theres Always Tomorrow,7. Practically Perfect,8. Magic Fingers,9. Carrying a Torch,10. A Little Bit of Nothing,11. Diva,12. Wishing for the Normal,13. Im So Over Men,14. Gypsies of the Ether,15. Its Hard to Tell,16. They Dont Make Glass Slippers,17. You Shall Go to the Ball,18. Does the Moment Ever Come?
George Stiles and Anthony Drewe have been writing musicals together for twenty-five years.

To celebrate this achievement, on 6 July 2008 a special concert was staged at Her Majestys Theatre that saw some of the West Ends brightest stars including Julie Atherton, Lisa OHare and Joanna Riding performing their songs.

Highlights of the evening now appear on this recording, and, with the singers giving their services for free, all proceeds from sales will go to Mercury Musical Developments, a UK charity dedicated to nurturing new musical theatre writers.

Featuring songs from seven of their past musicals, a new project, and a few of their cabaret numbers, this album contains pieces that represent everything we have come to associate with Stiles and Drewe.
Theirs is a very individual approach to songwriting, involving tunes designed for maximum emotional impact, which encourage forceful and striking singing. Indeed, it is no accident that they have embraced former Pop Idol runner-up, Gareth Gates, for the style of singing that has come into vogue through reality tv shows seems ideally suited to their work.

The original live performances survive the transition to recording well, although some songs suffer from being taken out of context. The opener, Flowers for a King from the 1984 musical, Tutankhamun, features a bold solo performance from Helena Blackman, but a rather sickly melody. More successful are the two songs that follow from Just So (1985). The snappy melody of Theres No Harm in Asking sees Richard Dempseys solo give way to a duet with Clive Rowe, whilst Wait a Bit features the wonderful Julie Atherton delivering the high notes with suitable gusto, but no sense of strain. Joy of Motherhood from Honk! (1993) is a brilliantly comic song; the two that follow from Peter Pan are perhaps best forgotten, but then Lisa OHare, Scarlett Strallen and Caroline Sheen deliver an excellent rendition of Practically Perfect from the 2004 show, Mary Poppins.

But if the first half of the CD offers a mixed bag, the second is more consistently strong. The two cabaret songs, A Little Bit of Nothing and Diva (both recorded for the first time here) work well because they were always designed to stand alone. They are also lighter in tone, with just a piano accompanying the singers delivery of the amusing words. A Little Bit of Nothing works particularly well because it is sung by Stiles and Drewe, enabling them to bring out their own intentions in writing it.

The album closes with six songs from the forthcoming musical, Soho Cinders, featuring Gareth Gates.. Having heard them here, I would certainly not put anyone off going to see the show. The songs are, in many ways, typical of Stiles and Drewes previous work, but they possess a greater degree of stylistic integrity, and thus feel more multi-faceted. So, Wishing For the Normal has a calm subtle air, with hints of both folk and pop in its melody, whilst the comic Im So Over Men is presented as a musical extravaganza.

In truth, Stiles and Drewes style of songwriting is probably something you either take to or you dont, so if you know of their work and would like to hear more then this album may be for you. If, on the other hand, you are not acquainted with them, it is far from certain that this recording will convert you. But, by all means, give it a try if you like. You may be pleasantly surprised, and the money couldnt (in my opinion!) be going to a worthier cause.

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