Zing’s Record Collection: Helena Blackman – ‘The Sound of Rodgers & Hammerstein’
Hello and welcome to the first review in this new segment ‘Zing’s Record Collection’ – join me as I run my eye over the latest cast recordings and musical theatre album releases.
First up is a review of Helena Blackman’s début album ‘The Sound of Rodgers & Hammerstein’, released on February 14th 2011 by Speckulation Entertainment. Blackman, most recently seen as Nellie in a major UK tour of South Pacific, is perhaps best known as a runner up on the BBC’s popular 2006 talent show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?.
Whilst I am not a fan of the talent show format, I do appreciate it can help to occasionally unearth previously undiscovered talent; and Blackman is one such example. Given the chance to shine with this album, which features twelve of R&H’s most-loved showtunes, Blackman grabs her opportunity with both hands and produces an enjoyable and promising recording début.
Supported by a sumptuous 28 piece orchestra – unusually large for a recording such as this – Blackman’s voice is the definition of clarity and versatility. Singing in character throughout, Blackman is able to sing delicate ballads such as ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ (South Pacific) and ‘If I Loved You’ (Carousel) beautifully. Happily, she also possesses the ability to switch on the Broadway Baby quality for numbers such as ‘I Enjoy Being a Girl’ (Flower Drum Song) and ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair’ (South Pacific), the latter song especially making me regret missing her performance as Nellie in the aforementioned South Pacific tour.
Blackman’s strength is in the telling of a story; she excels at character performance and her decision to keep each song’s roots firmly in context is a wise one. Thankfully, there are no Michael Ball-esque liberties taken here, we are just given pure and uncomplicated musical theatre, mixed and produced to a very high standard.
The arrangements by Simon Hale, Michael Bruce, Tom Kelly and Chris Walker respectively are more or less faithful to the original scores and generally flattering to Blackman’s singing range and style. Blackman is occasionally caught out of her depth when trying to hit high and hard belt notes; specifically in the finales of ‘I Have Confidence’ and ‘Climb Every Mountain’ (The Sound of Music). That being said, I do still favour her renditions over those by Maria rival and winner Connie Fisher.
Blackman is joined by Jonathan Ansell for ‘I Have Dreamed (The King and I) and the impressive Daniel Boys for ‘People Will Say We’re in Love’ (Oklahoma!), the latter role suiting Blackman’s delicate and pretty voice particularly well. It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to picture her in the role of Laurey, or any of the others recorded by Blackman on this CD (except maybe Mother Superior!) and I am sure that Blackman has a long and successful career in musical theatre ahead of her.
- Harry Zing