Sunday, 4 October 2009

If You Were Wondering

Well, it’s been a while since I introduced you to one of my Really Useful People , so I thought it was high time that we caught up with a couple of my previous subjects and see what they are up to now.

Firstly, erstwhile “Rusty”, Adam Ellis has had a successful run in “Pirates Of Penzance” at the Union Theatre and is shortly to make his debut in “Chicago” as Mary Sunshine. So if you want to see Adam strutting his stuff and all that jazz head on down to the Cambridge Theatre at Seven Dials.

So that’s what Adam is up to but now it’s time to find out what the Captain did next. Captain Von Trapp that is, in the shape of Simon Burke. Since leaving the London Palladium production of “The Sound Of Music” Simon has filmed an episode of “Hustle” and most excitingly made his debut at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall. Currently Simon is appearing as Georges in “La Cage Aux Folles” at London’s Playhouse Theatre and has also managed to find the time to release his debut album.

The beautifully titled “Something About Always” is a collection of songs that Simon has performed on the world’s stages, giving his fans an opportunity to have a permanent reminder of his big moments from the musicals. The title, of course, is a lyric from his current role with “La Cage’s” “Song On The Sand”, it is possibly one of my favourite Jerry Herman songs although it tends to be neglected on recordings in favour of the shows mega-hit “I Am What I Am”. Simon’s version has all the tenderness that the song conjures up in an imaginative, yet simple arrangement that utilizes the show’s title song.

For those of us who saw Simon’s turn in “A Little Night Music” at the National Theatre around a dozen years ago, we finally get to have his take on “In Praise Of Women”. It’s not necessarily a song that works well out of context but as he took over the role of Carl-Magnus he was the only one of the principals I saw who did not feature on the cast recording. Therefore for the completists amongst us it’s quite nice to add his rendition to our collections! He neatly follows this with “Sorry-Grateful” from “Company” which almost gives it a context as both songs deal with the trials of tribulations of marriage.

Having played Billy Flynn in “Chicago” and “Billy Crocker in “Anything Goes” it’s only right that we get to hear Simon’s “All I Care About Is Love” and “You’re The Top”. The latter features the delicious Caroline O’Connor in a duet of the Cole Porter classic. It’s another Porter song, this time from “High Society” that sees Simon reuniting with his very first Maria Rainer, Connie Fisher in a touching version of “True Love”. Undoubtedly this track is one of the album’s highlights.

As in the case of “Night Music”, Simon was a “take over” in “The Sound Of Music” so is not featured on the productions cast recording, however he addresses that fact by adding the shows paean to home “Edelweiss” to his collection. He follows this with a celebration of his own homeland, Australia entitled “My Country”. Personally this is probably the song I am least fond of on the album, but in all fairness I am not an Aussie. As the album’s quite an intimate one, with just a small band of musicians I just felt that this was one song that really needed a fuller musical accompaniment to do it justice. It’s definitely the more tender moments on the album that work best.

My personal highlights from the album are probably the lovely “What More Can I Say” from William Finn’s “March Of The Falsettoes” and two songs that I have never previously heard. Opening the proceedings we have a song from fellow countryman, Peter Allen called “If You Were Wondering” which I am sure will become a real favourite of mine. In closing Simon selects a delightful little song, which I believe he chose as the song that best sums him up back in my interview with him. So finally I got to hear “The Cuddle Song” and very sweet it is too!

Simon is in fine voice throughout and, as I mentioned earlier, he is at his best on the album’s more tender and reflective where his voice and the small band are at one with each other. I’m not sure whether it’s his intention but I found it quite interesting that his song choices take us on a journey chronicling love in all it’s many facets, ecstasy and heartache, romance and even patriotic love. While “Something About Always” is not a definitive overview of Simon’s career, the album does give a great taste of what he has accomplished so far. Perhaps when he does a follow up with a bigger band we will also get to hear a taste of his other roles such as Marius in “Les Miserables” and “The Phantom Of The Opera’s” Raoul. Until then we have “Something About Always” to tickle our taste buds.

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