Lyrics: Jack Edward Oliver
Music: Nick Munns
Reviewer: Mark Clegg
There can’t be many people who haven’t experienced the dreaded school assembly either as a participant or as a spectator, squatting on an under-sized chair waiting for your child to deliver their single line while dressed as the Archangel Gabriel or an onion. Luckily, school assemblies got a shot in the arm in 1968 when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote a short piece for Colet Court School in London. From little acorns do mighty oaks grow and that short cantata was expanded to eventually became a massive musical theatre phenomenon – Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
Jump to 1983 and Joseph’s influence is more than a little apparent in this similarly Biblical musical by Nick Munns and Jack Edward Oliver and based on the story of Esther. In fact the project was the brainchild of producer David Land who hoped to replicate the earlier success he had with Joseph. Sadly the result is closer to end of term than West End.
New Queen to the King of Persia, Esther uncovers a plot against her husband and… well, that’s about it. The story is hardly enthralling, and the amateurish, completely unexceptional music and predictable, unengaging lyrics do nothing to elevate this above anything other than primary school fodder. This reissue of the original 1983 studio cast album is its debut on CD and not even old stalwarts like Denis Quilley, Stephanie Lawrence and Clive Carter can make the material work.
Within musical theatre, taking influences from other pieces is pretty acceptable and fairly wide-spread but this show so desperately wants to be Joseph – and so desperately fails – that it doesn’t even reach the level of a parody of a bad musical. It can’t even be catagorised as ‘so bad its good’. It is so bad its bad.
As this was recorded in 1983, the music is a synthasized. Some musicals have used this method and managed to get it to work. Unfortunately here the quality of the writing and orchestrations means that it sounds on par with John Shuttleworth and his Yamaha – but without the irony.
The CD includes a number of demo tracks of additional numbers written for the 1985 UK tour. These are neither better nor worse – just equally bland. You will spend the running time of these tracks wondering how this show managed to get a UK tour.
With recent reissues of Andy Capp and Privates on Parade, Stage Door Records have proven to be masters at unearthing lost treasures. Swan Esther would have been better left buried.