Reviewer: Holly Spanner
Currently playing the ditzy plastic Karen in Mean Girls on Broadway, for which she was nominated as Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical, Back to My Roots is Kate Rockwell’s debut solo album. The album is a collection of songs from musicals that inspired Rockwell to pursue a career in theatre, from the likes of Cy Coleman, Frank Wildhorn, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber and William Finn.
Rockwell’s delightful sense of humour comes across in spades during this recording. A fantastic comedy actress, I’m Breaking Down from Falsettos is both hilarious and neurotic; the listener is left with no doubt that character songs are her forte. There are a couple of fun mashups, the first being I Know Things Now from Into the Woods with Now You Know from Merrily We Roll Along. The other is a very nice combo of On My Own from Les Mis, Memory from Cats and Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera, which brings an exciting, and welcome new direction to these otherwise very well-used songs.
At only 39 minutes, Back to my Roots is short, but boy does it pack a punch. A powerhouse of Broadway, Hey There, Good Times from I Love My Wife sets the pace from the off: high energy and exuberant. Big tunes need a big voice, and she certainly delivers. Perhaps, a little too well. It is an exhausting listen, and there’s a lot of belting for such a short space of time. Even in the tender Unexpected Song from Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance, meaning the emotion of the song is somewhat lost. That is not to say Rockwell doesn’t achieve the perfect belt, it is technically excellent and quite impressive, it’s just that a respite is needed between.
There is a hidden bonus track, Times Like This from the musical farce Lucky Stiff. With just an acoustic guitar for accompaniment, this gentle and a beautiful addition to the recording is very much welcomed (even though there is the odd belty moment). It’s a shame there aren’t more tracks like this to balance out the overall dynamics of the album, as this would also provide more weight to the big belting numbers. Instead of feeling like the showstoppers they should be, they lose some of their magic for being the norm.
Overall, this reviewer has mixed feelings towards this album. Individually, the songs are sung note perfect with charm and charisma, but together as a whole it doesn’t quite work and from an audio point of view, would benefit from calming down a little. But, if you’re after an album of showstoppers, quite literally, then look no further – you’ll love it.
Back to my Roots is available for purchase and download on Broadway Records