There has been much debate about the growing trend of ‘stunt casting’, in which celebrity names are brought into West End musicals as a draw for ticket sales. You may agree with it or you may not, but in a climate where money isn’t spent as freely as it once was, it is undoubtedly an effective method of bringing some of it into the West End. I don’t have anything against celebrity casting per se, just so long as the said celebrity is actually capable of carrying themselves on stage to the same high standard of our musical theatre performers. Fame alone is not enough.
There are countless celebrities who have turned their hand to musical theatre; last year, we had such names as Justin Lee Collins (Rock of Ages), Matt Willis (Wicked) and Russell Grant (The Wizard of Oz), to name but a few, and not forgetting the star-studded cast of the Jesus Christ Superstar arena tour, which saw Tim Minchin, Chris Moyles and Melanie Chisholm take to the stage. This was Minchin and Moyles’ first experience of performing on stage in a musical, but former Spice Girl Mel C had previously played the role of ‘Mrs Johnstone’ in the West End production of Blood Brothers, earning an Olivier Award nomination for her portrayal of the role.
She recently released her sixth album, Stages, which was a cover of musical theatre songs that “have been important to the singer during different stages of her life.” This again, seems to be becoming another trend among celebrity names who have performed in West End musicals. Alfie Boe for example, recorded the album Bring Him Home after appearing in the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables as ‘Jean Valjean’. Musical theatre performers have been releasing albums featuring covers of theatrical numbers for as long as I can remember, some of the most recent being Louise Dearman, Simon Bailey and John Owen Jones. Now these celebrity performers are jumping on board as well. The latest in line is Girls Aloud band member Kimberley Walsh.
Walsh performed in the West End cast of Shrek The Musical in 2011, taking over from Amanda Holden as ‘Princess Fiona’. Despite enjoying widespread success as part of Girls Aloud, she has always had a love of musicals – she previously played the role of ‘Cosette’ in Les Miserables at the age of 12 and took to the stage as ‘Eponine’ in the show as part of ITV documentary The Passions of Girls Aloud in 2009. It seems that love hasn’t faded just yet either, as she releases Centre Stage, her debut solo album, on 4th February 2013.
Walsh has focused on the genre of musical theatre for her first solo offering, covering a selection of her favourite theatrical songs which include ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ (Moulin Rouge), ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ (Oliver!), ‘On My Own’ (Les Miserables), ‘Memory’ (Cats) and ‘Defying Gravity’ (Wicked). She also duets with Ronan Keating on ‘Falling Slowly’ from Broadway musical Once, which hits the West End in March, and teams up with leading lady Louise Dearman for the Miss Saigon classic ‘I Still Believe’. Speaking about the album, Walsh said: “I’ve always loved musical theatre and doing Shrek The Musical definitely reignited the passion in me. I really wanted to share the love I have for musical theatre by taking some classic songs and completely reinventing them.”
Walsh may be enthusiastic about the album, but will everyone else? She performed one of the tracks from the album last night (Wednesday 23rd January) during the National Television Awards, and unfortunately, the singer has received rather a lot of criticism for it. As reported in the Mail Online, her live performance of Randy Crawford’s classic ballad ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ was slated by many viewers who wasted no time in taking to Twitter, posting such comments as: “It was Kimberley Walsh’s first live performance… I recommend it be her last.” Not all the feedback was so negative however, with one fan tweeting: “you were amazing at NTA love new song xx.”
So did you see Kimberley Walsh’s NTA performance – what did you think of it? With a whole album of musical theatre songs let’s hope that the majority vote is a big thumbs-up, otherwise she is likely to flop harder than Britney Spears on one of her comebacks.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 24th January 2013