To call this compilation cheesy is like saying Christmas is camp. And a 3-CD set curated by Elaine Paige is even camper than Christmas – a trawl through stage and screen musicals that’s akin to listening to EP’s Sunday radio show without the banter and bonkers laughter.
At 58 tracks it’s inevitably a mixed bag. There’s lots of Lloyd Webber, nowhere near enough Sondheim and a sprinkling of not-great contemporary stuff (Aladdin, Ghost) amidst such classics as Carousel and Singin’ In The Rain, although with the older musicals there’s often a tendency to favour revival casts over originals.
Some of the versions here are definitive ones: Jennifer Holliday belting out And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going from Dreamgirls, Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel Defying Gravity with their Wicked vocal gymnastics, Julie Covington Evita-emoting on Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. Others smack more of rights issues, like Sheridan Smith rather than Barbra in Funny Girl and Jason Donovan not Tim Curry doing The Time Warp from Rocky Horror.
On the plus side EP fans get the people’s diva belting out Memory from Cats and As If We Never Said Goodbye from Sunset Boulevard with the passion and aplomb that make her one of our best home-produced West End veterans. And thank God it’s her and Barbara Dickson, not Steps, duelling it out on I Know Him So Well from Chess. That song alone makes this CD set a worthwhile purchase for sticking in a theatre-lover’s Christmas stocking.
Elaine Paige Presents The Musicals is out now on Union Square Music