Music and Lyrics: Maury Yeston
Director: Gerard Alessandrini
Admirers of Maury Yeston’s work may have wondered why nobody had collected his songs in a revue format before this time. After all, he penned two Tony-winning musicals – Nine (1982) and Titanic (1997) and made a smash hit out of Grand Hotel.
Perhaps he has not had a string of blockbusters and he has not always had the fates on his side – he had the misfortune to write an adaptation of The Phantom of The Opera just before Lloyd-Webber announced his version of the show and his score for La Cage Aux Folles was supplanted during development by Jerry Herman’s. (This album gives a tantalising taste of both of these shows, incidentally.) Nevertheless, he has an impressive canon of successes and numerous finely-crafted and engaging songs to his credit.
This album, by PS Classics, records The York Theatre Company’s December 2019, Off-Broadway production, conceived and directed by the multi-talented Gerard Alessandrini of Forbidden Broadway fame. It is handsomely packaged with some interesting background information and all the song lyrics.
The content is a blend of Yeston’s better-known songs, particularly from Nine, with numbers from less celebrated shows, such as In the Beginning, his affectionate spoof on the Old Testament, and his song cycle December Songs. In addition, there is a brand new opening song that gives the show its title. This last song echoes Forbidden Broadway in style, gently ribbing the theatre community in an effective, light-hearted, curtain-raiser.
Orchestrations for the 8-piece orchestra by Doug Besterman, provide excellent support for the cast of five singers; three male and two female. The songs themselves are a mix of styles: Classic musical theatre, more folksy ballads and some unashamed, high-end pop.
Alex Getlin impresses with a smooth performance of Danglin’, a hugely appealing trunk-song, that would slip easily into any cabaret performer’s repertoire. She also makes an excellent job of the similarly appealing Strange from December Songs. Jovan E’Sean’s voice is sweet, smooth and polished on Mississippi Moon from The Queen of Basin Street. Benjamin Eakley gives a touching rendition of New Words, a gentle evocation of parental affection from In The Beginning.
Perhaps the most emotionally affecting song of the album is Unusual Way from Nine and it is given full value by Mamie Parris. Both the show’s climactic number, Be On Your Own and its replacement for the film, Take it All are both, oddly, missing and Titanic is not represented here at all. Still, this is not meant to be a songbook album as such. PS Classics have already produced The Maury Yeston Songbook –worth a listen for those new to Yeston’s work. This album is a record of the revue, and it serves as both a worthy tribute to this prodigiously talented songwriter and a hugely enjoyable listen.
Anything Can Happen In The Theater – The Musical World of Maury Yeston is available from PS Classics now