BLUEBIRD (Gareth Peter Dicks) Concept Album (Ramin Karimloo)
Composer: GARETH PETER DICKS
Lyricist: GARETH PETER DICKS
There is no denying that Gareth Peter Dicks has something special here in BLUEBIRD. Not only has he written the music, lyric and book for this show, but also managed to get it developed (via the "workshop" productions) into a fully orchestrated concept album featuring a host of well known theatrical names.
Concept albums have always been acknowledged as the finest way to get a work in progress heard, and the excellent cast features particularly strong leads including Ramin Karimloo, Sarah Lark, Stephen Weller and Abi Finley, and outstanding backup performers.
With the knowledge that simplicity is often the best course in musical theatre, Dicks has wisely built a book focusing on two families experiences both home and on the battlefield of World War Two. Without intricate sub-plots, he is able to explore far more naturally the effect of such devastating world events on the lives of each individual character.
Here the show is certainly at its most effective. A soldier's letter home is incredibly moving; chilling and beautiful. Indeed, whenever characters interact via letter or in conversation ("The Hospital / Pete's First Letter," for example) there is no mistaking the composer's talent for musicalizing relationships. A "Final Battle" with the spirit echoing through the orchestration and leading into "Goodnight Dear Soldiers" - perfectly performed by Abi Finley - serves absolutely perfectly the production's dramatic climax.
If there are faults in the piece, they are mainly in the lyric. The rhyming dictionary is thumbed for, "when I'm gloomy, you see through me," while several other moments depart from otherwise sound characterization in favor of banal "we live a loving life as our fathers did" expressions of thought and feeling. The odd modern phrase, "did they really have a clue" creeps in too, along with a Sergeant spouting possibly un-40s like popular psychology to inspire his men. All may be the types of line West End reviewers pick on with glee, but luckily these would vanish in the transition from concept to full production.
The other loss, possibly a result of simplifying the work to fit into 80 minutes of disc space, is the wonderful "Spitfires." A lovely blend of voices with music perfectly evoking the period look set to drive the evening as narrative links. Sadly, they vanish by track 4... any chance of a return, please? Speaking of vanishing, or rather appearing without trace, we find out at the end that husband Pete called his wife Roberta "Bobbie" in their closest moments together. Had we found that out earlier, the impact throughout the show, and notably in the final number would have been even greater.
This recording shows much potential, with the writer having the firmest possible grip on the relationships which are the production's greatest strength. With a director's work on the rougher edges of the lyric, this recording confirms that the whole is a piece worth progressing; and is an early work-in-progress disc that musical theatre fans would wish to have in their collection.