Pop versions of theater songs are as old as the hills (are alive) and this continues with Concord Musicc’s ‘R & H Goes Pop,’ which is based on the successful YouTube series of theater actors singing Rodgers & Hammerstein tunes. On video form, they can be kind of amusing, but on just an aural level, do they still work?
For me, sometimes yes and most times no. But look, I can be a curmudgeon with show tunes – it is one of the few areas where I tend to lean on the conservative side. So the more ‘successful’ tracks for me here are the ones where the singers veer closest to the melody. Gavin Creel’s ‘Something Wonderful’ is close enough that the message of the song isn’t diluted, and by God, I would never think a Rodgers/Hammerstein/Jason Robert Brown mash-up would ever work, but there you go, Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes’ duets in a wonderful ‘The Next Ten Minutes Ago.’ On that track, their voices blend effortlessly – chemistry is really key. I had higher hopes with Matt Doyle and Jelani Alladin’s ‘We Kiss In A Shadow’ but here they sound like they are both singing to walls – there’s just no spark there. And speaking of walls, when the arrangements try to go extreme, I just put up one. In Ariana DeBose’s ‘Shall We Dance,’ I thought the whole thing was atrocious, and maybe I could take Ashley Park’s ‘Do Re Mi,’ but really, does that song ever work out of context?
Look, I tried. I thought the whole album was challenging, and I tried very hard to just listen and let go, but….maybe I just can’t.