|Recording information: Angel Studios, Islington, London, England; Barrandov Smecky Soundstage, Prague, Czech Republic; Copthorne Studios, Maidenhead, England; Sony Whitfield Street Studios, London, England.
|Looking at the cover of Silva Treasury's four-CD box set Musicals: The Gold Collection, the prospective buyer could be forgiven for assuming that the collection draws upon vintage recordings from original London cast albums. After all, the word "gold" is in the title, and the artist credit is to "stars of the London stage." But those who are familiar with Silva's other recordings, which tend to be newly made versions of classic film soundtracks, will not be surprised to discover that many of the label's usual performers, particularly the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the Crouch End Festival Chorus, are on board, and that these are also new recordings. And the "stars of the London stage?" Well, they are Meredith Braun, Keith Burns, Sharon Campbell, Mary Carewe, Gerard Casey, Chris Corcoran, Keith Ferreira, Lesley Garrett, Helen Hobson, Michele Hooper, Christopher Howard, Jason Howard, Ria Jones, John Langley, David Shannon, Deborah Steel, Jill Washington, Dave Willetts, and Tania Williams. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of any of these "stars." In addition to the name performers who originate starring roles and open shows on Broadway and in the West End, there is a small army of talented artists who stand in for those real stars when they are sick or replace them in long-running shows, and those are the kind of singers heard on this album. For example, Dave Willetts, who sings five songs, including two from Phantom of the Opera, has, according to the liner notes, played the part of the Phantom in London and on tour for more than five years, and Jill Washington, who duets with Jason Howard on "Stranger in Paradise" from Kismet and "Make Believe" from Show Boat, has played the leading part of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera "more than any other actress in the world." As Britons, these performers, not surprisingly, got their real grounding in the Andrew Lloyd Webber-composed British musicals of the 1970s and '80s, as well as in Les Mis?rables, and they are at their best when performing songs from those shows, as they do on 19 tracks out of 56. They are less impressive on the older American material, including 11 songs composed by Richard Rodgers. And the two schools of musical do not sit well together, as they are more or less randomly interspersed on the four discs. The result is a long album of miscellaneous show music dating from the 1920s to the 1980s, recorded in the 21st century by professional, largely unknown performers. It will be of interest as a curiosity to theater music fans, but it does not deserve to be called a "gold collection" performed by "stars." ~ William Ruhlmann