To the Stars: Sarah Brightman – Song and Dance

sarah brightman, andrew lloyd webber

With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by English lyricist Don Black, Song and Dance is a two-act musical. Sarah Brightman is featured in the album release of the Song portion, although Marti Webb initiated the role when it first opened at the Palace Theatre in the West End.

The production opened in March of 1982 and ran until March of 1984, with Webb ultimately replaced by Gemma Craven, Lulu and Liz Robertson. After the production closed, Brightman took the lead role for a video release of Song and Dance. A Broadway version that opened in 1985 would feature Bernadette Peters in the lead role.

Today, fans can get Song and Dance as both a video and an audio recording. This review is for the audio recording.

The first disc features the Song portion, which was a song-cycle called Tell Me On a Sunday. It was written by Webber and Black and based on an idea by Tim Rice with plans of developing a television series. After working on Evita, Webber and Rice wanted to work on something smaller – but relationship complications centering on Elaine Page soon sunk the ship and Webber went shopping for another lyricist.

Tell Me On a Sunday made its way to Song and Dance on the advice of Cameron Mackintosh.

The story is about a young British woman’s quixotic adventures in America, namely Hollywood and New York City. Brightman gives voice to the woman at the core of this one-woman show. Her vocals take the form of letters to her mother and of her inmost thoughts.

Tell Me On a Sunday is a decent showcase for Brightman. She handles it well and brings nerve to the lyrics.

Brightman’s enunciation is strong and she handles the off-pace portions pleasantly, venturing through the conversations with ease and handling the transitions capably. In “Let Me Finish,” her resolute tone gives her character layers.

A highlight is “Take That Look Off Your Face,” an animated Broadway-style number that was written in 1978 by Black and Webber. Brightman is splendidly sassy and her accent laces through the material cleverly. Other highpoints are “Sheldon Bloom,” a jazzy number, and “Capped Teeth and Caesar Salad.” There’s also “Unexpected Song,” a piece that is gently forgettable but for her impressive note at the end.

As good as Brightman is on the tracks, they are musically unmemorable. Her voice isn’t used well, save for a few moments toward the end of the program, and it’s a tortuous production. Webber’s music is as corny as it regularly is and there’s only so much to be done with the material. Black’s lyrics almost save the day.

The second act features the music of Webber’s fusion album Variations. It’s an instrumental based on Paganini’s 24th Caprice that Webber wrote after losing a bet with his brother, the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. The Dance was delivered by Wayne Sleep, the shortest male dancer ever admitted to the Royal Ballet School.

Brightman fans will dig the Song portion, although it’s nowhere near her best work. It fruitfully blends her charm with her vocal cords, but there’s little drama and significance. Song and Dance, the ultimate amalgamation of Tell Me On a Sunday and Variations, is a mostly mediocre production that makes for a mostly mediocre release.

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