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Music Review

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Andy Capp
Original West End Cast Recording


Music: Alan Price
Lyrics: Trevor Peacock
Performed by: Tom Courtenay, Val McLane, John Bardon and Alan Price
Label: Stage Door Records
RRP: £13.99
STAGE 9034
5 055122 190349
Release Date: 31 March 2014

As anyone who reads my reviews on a regular basis will know, I have a keen interest in seeing cast recordings that were previously only available on LP, being released on CD for the first time. Sometimes this is a disappointing experience, especially when, in the case of some companies, all they have done is transferred a less-than-perfect recording into digital. However, sometimes, as was the case recently with Privates on Parade, we get the original mastertapes transferred, and the results are astounding. I was pleased to hear that an old favourite of mine, Andy Capp, was to be released, again from the master tapes, so I awaited it dropping through my door with anticipation.

Andy Capp is an exuberant musical, with a delightful score by Alan Price and Trevor Peacock. The show conjures up the timeless dream world of work-shy, beer-swilling "Andy Capp", known the world over from Reg Smythe's long running cartoon strip in the Daily Mirror. The story is essentially a narrative setting an upcoming wedding (of Raquel and Elvis) against the ongoing fracas in Andy and Flo's household. The musical adaptation is a faithful evocation of the cartoon, full of mother-in-law jokes, drunken escapades, big-bosomed, mini-skirted women wielding rolling pins and paunchy, cloth-capped men stomping around in boots.

Andy Capp opened in June 1982 at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre starring Tom Courtenay as Andy, Val McLane as Flo, John Bardon as Chalkie and Alan Price as Geordie. The production transferred to London's Aldwych Theatre in September 1982 where it ran for 120 performances. Andy Capp won positive reviews from the critics and was nominated for Best Musical at the 1982 Olivier Awards (then the S.W.E.T. Awards). The recording made in Oct 1982, features the original cast.

I have a great deal of affection for this musical. I was lucky enough to musical direct a production about 10 years ago, and I have very fond memories of trying to construct something out of a hand written score and band parts. It was great to hear it again and it does, as I had hoped, sound glorious. If you had told me it had been re-recorded, I would have believed you. Thankfully, the tapes must have been in excellent condition, and it's a credit to all concerned. Musically, it's of an age, as was the comic strip - but is a merry old jaunt. The whole company is excellent, and execute the numbers wonderfully. It's always handy when your principal is the composer.

Picking highlights for me is tough. The company numbers are all good - and a lot of fun. 'Good Evening' is great, and I remember it being a lot of fun on stage too. I love 'I Have A Dream', sung by the young leads, planning their life together, and 'Gold Old Legs', a very funny number. 'Spend Spend Spend' is another highlight, performed by the wives, after a shopping spree, much to the annoyance of the husbands. 'Frozen Moments' offers more of an insight into Capp, and sits nicely amongst the more tongue in cheek numbers. For me, the number that has it all, is the final company number 'Its Better To Be In Simple Harmony' - super stuff.

I can't go without mentioning the orchestra, led by Mike Dixon, who has certainly gone onto great things, as has the arranger Dave Firman.

If you are fan of musical theatre, I really can recommend having a listen to this.


Ian Gude

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