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88 of 98 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2004
...but flawed, as most of Lloyd Webber's scores since "Sunset Boulevard" have been. Granted, every score, regardless of the composer, has its flaws, but I have noticed a trend with Lloyd Webber, starting with "Whistle Down the Wind," that continues here, where several strong songs are diminished by lesser ones and occasionally dull recitative dialogue sequences.

"The Woman in White" is in some ways the most complex and interesting score composed by Lloyd Webber since "Sunset Boulevard," which I found as thoroughly enjoyable as "The Phantom of the Opera" in many respects. Here, we have a dark setting, an air of mystery, quite a few intriguing characters and many opportunities for dramatic scoring and romantic performances, all of which add up to a generally winning end result. The opening sequence is memorably spooky, and the cast's vocals shine throughout, particularly on songs like "I Believe My Heart," "Evermore Without You," and my personal favorite, "All For Laura," which is absolutely electrifying.

There are many more good tunes in the score, as well as plenty of skillfully executed recitative dialogue, but there is also quite a bit of bland recitative (the kind where you can't really put your finger on any melody, a situation not helped by occasionally medicore lyrics) and less memorable songs.

Also, it's impossible not to notice that Lloyd Webber has (yet again) ripped off his own "Jeeves" score ("By Jeeves" to those who know its reincarnated version better) as well as "Whistle Down the Wind." Numerous times you can hear the original bridge section of "Half a Moment" from "Jeeves" (a.k.a. the introduction to "Half a Moment" in "By Jeeves"), a clear and direct lift. This is made worse by the fact that Lloyd Webber had already stolen it and used it as the bridge to "As If We Never Said Goodbye" from "Sunset Boulevard," and made even worse, yet again, by his turning around and stealing it back for a revised "Half a Moment" in "By Jeeves." In other words, this melody has been recycled twice too many times... time to dig up a new melody! You will also hear, several times, a musical passage from "Whistle Down the Wind" (it's the one near the climax of "Whistle" where Swallow sings to the pseudo-Jesus/escaped convict: "No one's ever looked at me... the way you're looking at me now..."). And I cannot put my finger on it (yet), but you can definitely hear one or two "inklings" of "Aspects of Love" in this score, although these instances are less obvious than the others.

Maria Friedman gives a stellar vocal performance on this recording (and given her rather excellent track record on the stage, might she soon inherit Elaine Paige's throne?), as do the other female principles. Michael Crawford is good as Count Fosco, but his role is not as juicy as it could have been and he seems to have far too little to do. The male villain and male romantic/hero lead handle their roles well.

In all, I very much like the score to "The Woman in White." It's not as satisfying as I had hoped, but considering the hit-or-miss nature of the scores to "Whistle Down the Wind" and "The Beautiful Game"--both strong scores I liked--where a few gorgeous songs were surrounded by somewhat lesser material, this seems like a step in the right direction.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals have never been popular with the critics, but as box office records show, audiences eat them up with a spoon. They are meant to serve as entertainment, and entertain they certainly do.

"The Woman in White" is not much different from standard Lloyd Webber fare, as the dialogue is still sung through and filled with melodies that repeat over and over and over again. While this might seem annoying, Lloyd Webber manages to get away with it because if there's one thing he can do, it is create pleasant tunes that you don't mind encountering more than once. There are not as many memorable melodies as you might find in "The Phantom of the Opera", but the "Woman in White" theme, "I Believe My Heart", and "You Can Get Away With Anything" are definitely standouts.

The plot is "freely adapted" from the novel by Wilkie Collins, and is very easy to follow. Though it's a touch simplistic and perhaps even a wee bit predictable, it is executed in such a way that it propells you on to see what the outcome will be.

The performances on the CD, recorded live on opening night, are perfect across the board. Michael Crawford, who originated the title role in "The Phantom of the Opera", is at his villainous best as Count Fosco, the obese Italian who pairs with the sinister Sir Percival Glyde (Oliver Darley). Marian and Laura, the half-sisters caught in the middle of the mystery (Marian Friedman, Jill Paice) are wonderful to listen to, and the eponymous Woman in White (Angela Christian, "Miss Dorothy" in the OBC of "Thoroughly Modern Millie) simply breaks your heart.

The musical is expected to make the leap from the West End to Broadway soon. Hopefully "The Phantom of the Opera" will continue to run for years, but if not then "The Woman in White" looks to be a worthy successor.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2005
I saw the show in London twice last week, due to having purchased a ticket on my own before finding out that our group leader had included the show on our itinerary. Michael Crawford did not perform the first time I went, although his understudy was excellent, so I went the second time hoping to finally see him. Alas, he was still sick, and the "understudy to the understudy" had no chemistry whatsoever with Maria Friedman.

I found the music repetitive and boring. It opened well, but in the first act the establishment of the love relationship could have been cut by two songs. Then the music started to repeat, quite noticeably by the second half. I haven't seen several of the other musicals mentioned here, but I definitely heard snippets of "Phantom" used in the bridges. It seemed as if he ran out of material early and started recycling songs from the first half into the second half. It became extremely annoying.

"All for Laura" was powerfully sung, but in the context of the story was trite and unsatisfying. ALW's treatment of the story really was shallow, requiring no thought whatsoever. A "mystery" or conflict was introduced, only to be resolved in the very next line. It was utterly predictable.

"You Can Get Away With Anything" was one of the only bright, fresh spots in the second act. At last, a new song! And it was staged beautifully.

Overall, I found the musical simplistic and boring. There were a few good moments, including the first song sung by the "woman in white" ("You See I Am No Ghost" and all other variations of it) but I cannot agree that the score approaches the "Phantom" by any stretch. The Phantom of the Opera is complex, textured, emotional and compelling. This musical was too simplistically adapted and two-dimensional.

Those members of our group who are theatre or music lovers didn't like the show. Those who had little exposure to the arts thought it was great. I personally believe the show was created mostly to just cash in commercially on a few big names.

I do still have snippets of the music running through my mind, 3 days after last seeing the show, but they are only snippets. The lack of many real compelling, memorable songs saddens me. I usually buy soundtracks readily, but for this show I didn't even want one. The desire to hear a few songs again is outweighed by the annoyance at the repetitiveness of the whole thing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
When in September 2001 Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical "The Beautiful Game" closed after only a year's run in the West End, people began to wonder has he completely lost his touch. The general opinion was that he needs to get back to the form he knows best: blockbuster productions interwoven with the lush and catchy tunes; a formula that proved magical for the most part of his long career and thus provided him with two of the longest musicals in the history of the theatre (i.e., "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera).

Hopes ran high when it was announced that his next project was going to be based on Wilkie Collins' famous novel "The Woman in White". This book was a smash hit after its first release in the 1860-is and its dark, gothic and mysterious story seemed a perfect challenge for a man who demonstrated he can successfully tackle similar subjects, as proven with the Phantom. The show opened in London in September 2004 and will have its American premiere in Chicago this year. Despite the fact the audiences are pouring into the London's Palace theatre to see it, this double CD recording of the show will not be totally satisfying for many ALW's faithful fans.

The CDs capture most of the show and this is actually the live recording from the opening night performance, with the audience's noises and applauses cut out. The problems of "The Woman in White" stem from several facts. First, there is the score. One cannot deny the fact there are some lovely melodies here: the haunting title's character leitmotiv; a powerful love duet `I believe my heart' (released as a separate pop single), the poignant `All for Laura; big ensemble numbers like `Lammestide' or playful `Lost souls' and a vivid comic number called `You can get away with everything. They are all decent, if not exquisite musical peaces with the familiar ALW signature. The problem is, there are too few of them to keep the whole score together. The rest follows the pattern from `Aspects of love' by setting the dialogue to music. This, in turn, means that there are only few real songs here and that makes things difficult for the plot, for one gets the feeling it is dragging on with a very slow pace. On the whole, the score is not altogether bad, but it does not hit the target and grabs only sporadically.

On the other hand, the story, set in 1860-is, does have some potential. Some things have been changed, but the basic plot of the book is retained on the stage. We follow a young drawing teacher Walter Hartright, who is on his way to Cumberland to become an art tutor to two half-sisters, Marian Halcombe and Laura Farlie. Before he gets to his destination, Walter has a chilling encounter on a foggy train station with the mysterious young woman, all dressed in white. She is desperate to share her secret with someone. When he finally meets the two sisters, Walter is amazed how much one of them, Laura, resembles to the woman in white. After a while, Laura and Walter fall in love, but she is already promised to a young aristocrat, Sir Percival Glyde. Marian, herself keen on Walter, is determined that Laura should marry Glyde so the two of them could have a secure future. Before she sends Walter away, he has another encounter with the woman in white, who warns him Laura mustn't marry Glyde under any circumstances. Marriage does take place and Marian finds out too late that Glyde was only after Laura's money. With the help of the mysterious woman in white's secret, Marian and Walter now must work together to save Laura from the evil plan Glyde has formed. Besides the mystery of the secret in question, we are also intrigued by Glyde's charming Italian friend, count Fosco. Is he, with his unusual taste in white mice, vanilla bonbons and poison, a friend or a foe? Overall, the story has its merits, since when listening to the recording you really want to find out what is the big secret. Hence, despite slow pacing, the plot's main question will occupy the listener's mind.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the cast; for most of them do not stick out. Maria Friedman, who likes to be thought of as a current big name in the West End, lacks a good vocal power. Her voice is at times too thin at the lover tones and when it tries to reach highs it becomes unpleasantly husky, despite her passable rendition of the Act One big number `All for Laura'. The rest, Martin Crewes, Jill Paice and Oliver Darley do their best but rarely evoke passion. Only one name is of the top quality here and that is Michael Crawford, the man who rose to stardom by being the first and overall the best Phantom in "The Phantom of the Opera". His tenor hasn't lost any of the charms it had during the time he wore the Phantom's mask. However, his potential remains vastly unused here, mostly due to the fact count Fosco is only a supporting one and second; Crawford has only one big tune to deliver - quite a waste for both his name and voice. His big number, "You can get away with anything", especially its opening night version at the end of disc two, shows what a talent he is, plus it's a very nice, Italian-flavored tune. Thusly, the way Crawford plays this interesting character is one of the rare highlights on this recording.

David Zippel's lyrics tell the basic story, but nothing more. They can be terribly predictable at times and for the most lack inner depth. The CD package comes with the full libretto and a couple of production photos.

So in the end, "The Woman in white" comes as a bit of a disappointment, since it could have turned out to be a much stronger, better written piece.

"You can get away with anything", sings Michael Crawford in his big number. Alas, I am not too sure that Andrew Lloyd Webber can get away on the whole with this one.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2005
ALW, one of mine and many other's favorite musical composer, has written a new, but not completely original, mega-musical. First of, if you did not like the Phantom of the Opera, JC Superstar, Evita, and/or Aspects of Love, this is not for you.

Many of his songs here are derivative of his other musicals, most notably from Aspects of Love. "I Believe my Heart, "for instance, though beautiful, is reminiscent of Aspects of Love's "Seeing is Believing," but the score is nonetheless quite good (especially if you don't think about his previous works as you listen). Many parts (as the Prologue) are dark and mysterious, which add to the drama, as does POTO's "I Remember There Was Myst..." It is almost entirely sung, as is POTO, which draws the question whether ALW is too shy to compose operas, for many of his works can easily transfer to the lyric opera genre. That, however, is beside the point, but is part of another relevant inquiry.

The character development in this musical is considerably better than in other ALW works. We really learn the motivations of Marian, Laura, Fosco and Walter. The music conveys each character, and there are leitmotifs (sort of) for certain characters and themes; therefore, in the sense of putting the right music to the right context, ALW does a superb job.

The singing could almost not be better, considering this is still technically of the "musical theatre" genre. The strongest singing comes from Jill Paice's Laura. Maria Friedman's Marian and Martin Crewes's Walter are not far. Oliver Darley as Glyde has a beautiful tenor voice but a small role in comparison with Michael Crawford's Fosco. We remember Michael Crawford, with his nasal and technique-lacking singing, as the first Phantom. Here he is better vocally (but not close to the others) and very good dramatically (or comically), as always.

My only real complaint is the choice of instruments for this recording. The electric keyboard dominates many parts of the score, with "I Believe My Heart" first coming to mind. It makes those parts sound popish, dull, childish, and just weird. Otherwise, however, this particular recording of this musical (currently the only one) has interesting and catchy music, a very good plot, and very good singing and acting. I give it a 4.5 due to its derivative composition of Webber's earlier works (at least they are HIS own works he is copying!!!). If you are Webber fan, you won't be disapointed but rather pleased with this new soon-to-be mega-musical.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Andrew Lloyd Webber's most recent musical theatre score, THE WOMAN IN WHITE, does contain a fair amount of wonderful material, but sadly also features some dubious clinkers as well. Following his mediocre scores for "Whistle Down the Wind" (too heavy with power ballads), and "The Beautiful Game" (a far-from-beautiful score), the expectations were high and critics were sharpening their knives when THE WOMAN IN WHITE opened in London at the Palace Theatre, 2004.

Based around the classic gothic thriller from Wilkie Collins, the story concerns Marian Halcombe (played by Maria Friedman), who attempts to thwart the depraved Sir Percival Glyde (Oliver Darley) from marrying her half-sister, Laura Fairlie (Jill Paice). Their salvation comes in the form of Anne Catherick (Angela Christian), known as the mysterious 'woman in white'...

Andrew Lloyd Webber's return to the genre of the gothic novel, so perfectly accomplished in his masterpiece "The Phantom of the Opera", feels and sounds like an anti-climax in so many ways. While there are some great pieces like Lord Fosco's "You Can Get Away with Anything", Laura's "If Only I Could Dream This World Away", and Marian's "All for Laura"; there are just as many derivative and average numbers.

The cast is sensational. Maria Friedman, long one of my favourite musical theatre leading ladies, gives Marian all her best attributes; and Michael Crawford (who was barely recognisable onstage, in fat prosthetics), is a highly comical Lord Fosco.

In a radical departure, Lloyd Webber decided to record the opening night performance in London (digitally removing all audience noise and applause), instead of doing a studio recording. The result gives us the energy of a live performance, albeit with the murky sound that comes part and parcel with doing a live recording. On the whole, the album is presented quite well.

Despite mixed reviews, THE WOMAN IN WHITE had a very respectable London run, though the Broadway production fared less successfully. This double disc set includes a bonus track of "You Can Get Away with Anything" that includes the audience interaction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
When in September 2001 Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical "The Beautiful Game" closed after only a year's run in the West End, people began to wonder has he completely lost his touch. The general opinion was that he needs to get back to the form he knows best: blockbuster productions interwoven with the lush and catchy tunes; a formula that proved magical for the most part of his long career and thus provided him with two of the longest musicals in the history of the theatre (i.e., "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera).

Hopes ran high when it was announced that his next project was going to be based on Wilkie Collins' famous novel "The Woman in White". This book was a smash hit after its first release in the 1860-is and its dark, gothic and mysterious story seemed a perfect challenge for a man who demonstrated he can successfully tackle similar subjects, as proven with the Phantom. The show opened in London in September 2004 and will have its American premiere in Chicago this year. Despite the fact the audiences are pouring into the London's Palace theatre to see it, this double CD recording of the show will not be totally satisfying for many ALW's faithful fans.

The CDs capture most of the show and this is actually the live recording from the opening night performance, with the audience's noises and applauses cut out. The problems of "The Woman in White" stem from several facts. First, there is the score. One cannot deny the fact there are some lovely melodies here: the haunting title's character leitmotiv; a powerful love duet `I believe my heart' (released as a separate pop single), the poignant `All for Laura; big ensemble numbers like `Lammestide' or playful `Lost souls' and a vivid comic number called `You can get away with everything. They are all decent, if not exquisite musical peaces with the familiar ALW signature. The problem is, there are too few of them to keep the whole score together. The rest follows the pattern from `Aspects of love' by setting the dialogue to music. This, in turn, means that there are only few real songs here and that makes things difficult for the plot, for one gets the feeling it is dragging on with a very slow pace. On the whole, the score is not altogether bad, but it does not hit the target and grabs only sporadically.

On the other hand, the story, set in 1860-is, does have some potential. Some things have been changed, but the basic plot of the book is retained on the stage. We follow a young drawing teacher Walter Hartright, who is on his way to Cumberland to become an art tutor to two half-sisters, Marian Halcombe and Laura Farlie. Before he gets to his destination, Walter has a chilling encounter on a foggy train station with the mysterious young woman, all dressed in white. She is desperate to share her secret with someone. When he finally meets the two sisters, Walter is amazed how much one of them, Laura, resembles to the woman in white. After a while, Laura and Walter fall in love, but she is already promised to a young aristocrat, Sir Percival Glyde. Marian, herself keen on Walter, is determined that Laura should marry Glyde so the two of them could have a secure future. Before she sends Walter away, he has another encounter with the woman in white, who warns him Laura mustn't marry Glyde under any circumstances. Marriage does take place and Marian finds out too late that Glyde was only after Laura's money. With the help of the mysterious woman in white's secret, Marian and Walter now must work together to save Laura from the evil plan Glyde has formed. Besides the mystery of the secret in question, we are also intrigued by Glyde's charming Italian friend, count Fosco. Is he, with his unusual taste in white mice, vanilla bonbons and poison, a friend or a foe? Overall, the story has its merits, since when listening to the recording you really want to find out what is the big secret. Hence, despite slow pacing, the plot's main question will occupy the listener's mind.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the cast; for most of them do not stick out. Maria Friedman, who likes to be thought of as a current big name in the West End, lacks a good vocal power. Her voice is at times too thin at the lover tones and when it tries to reach highs it becomes unpleasantly husky, despite her passable rendition of thee Act One big number `All for Laura' The rest, Martin Crewes, Jill Paice and Oliver Darley do their best but rarely evoke passion. Only one name is of the top quality here and that is Michael Crawford, the man who rose to stardom by being the first and overall the best Phantom in "The Phantom of the Opera". His tenor hasn't lost any of the charms it had during the time he wore the Phantom's mask. However, his potential remains vastly unused here, mostly due to the fact count Fosco is only a supporting one and second; Crawford has only one big tune to deliver - quite a waste for both his name and voice. His big number, "You can get away with anything", especially its opening night version at the end of disc two, shows what a talent he is, plus it's a very nice, Italian-flavored tune. Thusly, the way Crawford plays this interesting character is one of the rare highlights on this recording.

David Zippel's lyrics tell the basic story, but nothing more. They can be terribly predictable at times and for the most lack inner depth. The CD package comes with the full libretto and a couple of production photos.

So in the end, "The Woman in white" comes as a bit of a disappointment, since it could have turned out to be a much stronger, better written piece.

"You can get away with anything", sings Michael Crawford in his big number. Alas, I am not too sure that Andrew Lloyd Webber can get away on the whole with this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2010
That said, this is one fantastic musical. It is my second favorite after, unsurprisingly, "The Phantom of the Opera" and undoubtedly marks a long-awaited comeback to his more classic roots. With an evocative score, sweeping melodies, talented performers, a winning story, and a goodly amount of atmosphere, it all combines into one seamless package that undoubtedly, in my opinion, amounts to sheer brilliance.

Like "Phantom of the Opera", Webber's "Woman in White" harkens back to the days of Victorian theatre, where spectacle and melodrama are the norm, unexpected plot twists are found at every turn, and thrills, chills and suspense abound. The show's mildly Gothic setting carries a uniquely historical flavor, and its dark, moody, and interesting score coupled with the appropriate touches of comedy, beauty, and operatic theming is simply amazing to listen to. Based on the semi-Gothic thriller by Wilkie Collins, Webber's treatment brings all the nineteenth-century drama to the twenty-first century stage without modernizing or desecrating it in any way.

I bought this CD after reading the original book, but this recording took none of the enjoyment away from me. If anything, it only added to it. The story came absolutely bounding off the page, so to speak, when put to music. I honestly felt as if I had been transported back in time to the vision of 1860's England so vividly painted within the book as I listened. Taped live on the opening night at the Palace Theatre in London, this recording has all the energy and freshness you'd expect from a live performance, but with all the pristine quality of a studio recording. The entire show is included here, with no edits, so everything from the libretto, including the transitional dialogue, is present.

The play begins centered around a young drawing-master, Walter Hartright, who is on his way to Cumberland to tutor two half-sisters, Laura Fairlie and Marian Halcombe, who live together with their invalid uncle at Limmeridge House, the family's estate. While delayed at the signalman's box, Walter encounters a disturbed, mysterious woman dressed all in white. She reveals herself as Anne Catherick, and explains that she has been badly wronged and holds a dark secret against her tormentor. She is desperate to reveal it to Walter, but she is frightened away before she has a chance to tell it. Mystified, Hartright finally arrives at the house, greeted warmly by his future pupils, and is struck at the resemblance between Laura, the youngest and prettier of the two sisters, and the strange woman he met in the road.

Without giving too much away, this show has it all: humor, drama, romance, action, suspense, tragedy, and mystery. There is the perfect balance between characters, with likable protagonists and despisable yet charismatic villians. The plot is fantastically thrilling and ingeniously-wound. Anne's secret keeps you hungering for resolution and hanging to every word, and gradually involves everyone, coming to an exciting conclusion in the final act.

The lyrics in the whole show are witty and memorable, and together with the amazing cast and score makes for a thoroughly enjoyable listen. The dialogue is sung through, which gives you the feel of old-fashioned opera. Webber continues his talent for weaving recurrent leit-motifs through the whole score, and helps cement the simple but lingering themes into your mind.

As for the cast, they are all in top form, playing their roles with a ton of pathos and strength. Jill Paice is a great Laura, and together with Angela Christian as Anne Catherick, Martin Crewes as Walter Hartright, and Oliver Darley as Sir Pecival Glyde, they make a formidable supporting cast and a joy to listen to.

Concerning the bigger stars of the show, Maria Friedman shines as Marian, the less-pretty but plucky half-sister of Laura; she is made a more primary character than any of the other main characters, a great improvement from the novel. Maria's beautiful voice soars with the show's beautiful vocals and provides a nice contrasts to Paice's lighter soprano and Christian's shrill and slightly mad Anne; and I mustn't forget my favorite part of the show, the marvelous "Napoleon of Crime", the ridiculously Italian but deliciously enjoyable Count Fosco.

I know that it is hard to believe that this is the same man who only eighteen years before was playing the Phantom himself on the London stage, but listen closely: it is! Michael Crawford once again displays his phenomenal talents with an inexhaustible verve. His role as the obese villian with a penchant for sweets, white mice, and shady dealings is probably the biggest show-stealer, and to quote the man himself, he does "get away with everything". He can clearly do anything and be anyone, and no one in the world could play his part for him. All subsequent players just don't even begin to hold a candle to his stellar portrayal. Mr. Crawford completely embodies Count Fosco in every respect; he just IS the man, and makes you both laugh with pleasure and shake your head in disgust for this dual-personalitied creation.

Sinister, charming, hammy, and seductive, his Fosco is entertaining and larger-than-life without being overblown. His luscious honey-sweet tenor from his Phantom days hasn't deserted him, either. While opting for a less hypnotic tremor, he still has a mind-boggling power of voice and displays it expertly in Fosco's various ups, downs, and other acrobatic feats of opera-spoofing skill. For a good example, check out his Opening Night version of "You Can Get Away With Anything", the final track on disc 2. He successfully holds a single note for a throat-straining twenty seconds without taking a breath. I can't imagine doing that myself for even half that time!

Mr. Webber's score stands out wonderfully against the usual flightiness of most musicals today. Every song has such feeling behind it, it's hard not to form some sort of connection to each and every one. I have too many favorites to pick just one, so I'll highlight a few that stand at the top of my list:

"Trying Not To Notice" is an especially pretty song. A nice trio between Marian, Laura, and Walter, it gently highlights the growing but unspoken feelings of both sisters for the drawing master, and the latter's for one in particular.

"All for Laura" is especially affecting. Essentially an aria and soliloquy, it is, as one reviewer previously noted, electrifying; it is perhaps one of the sweetest melodies Andrew Lloyd Webber has ever composed.

Despite how magnificent each of those pieces are, Count Fosco's big number in the second act, "You Can Get Away With Anything" is just a masterpiece. If you can get through even one listen without collapsing into a fit of giggles like I do, then you must have nerves, or at least a sense of humor forged of steel. David Zippel's wickedly clever play on words takes a light-hearted look at various legally questionable activities that never fails to bring a smile to my face.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this album to anyone who loves a genuinely good musical or is just a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber in general.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2006
Andrew Lloyd Webber is a very excellent composer of musicals, Phantom being the best. This relatively new musical is absolutely superb! The musical is loosely based on the Wilke Collins mystery novel of the same title. Unfortunately, I have not read Collins' book, but the musical tells an emotionally stirring story with humor, romance, and suspence.

The primise of this drama concerns a young drawing master or instructor, Walter Hartwright, who is going to Limerage House in England to instruct two young women, Marian Harcum and Laura Fairley, both half sisters. Walter encounters a slightly insane, very frightenend woman dressed in white on the train platform, who tells him she has a secret, and that she seeks to save a life by revealing it to the appropriate person. The rest of the plot concerns the growing relationship between Walter, Marian, and Laura. It also concerns an evil yet carismatic pair of fortune hunters, including and obese aand hilarious italian, Count Fosco.

The cast on this recording is beautiful, foremost being Michael Crawford who portrays Count Fosco. This role is vastly different from the Phantom, whom Crowford originally portrayed, and he obviously has more fun and enjoys this role more. Maria Freedman is excellent as Marian, and her bantering with Crawford is a delight. Her capacity for believably portraying the whole gambit of emotions from downright hilarity to heartwrenching sadness is truly remarkable. All the other actors/actresses are excellent.

The musical score is filled with memorable songs that range in emotion. Among my favorites are: "I Hope You'll Like It Here," "Trying Notice," "I Believe My Heart," "Lammastide," and "You Can Get Away With Anything." This song is also included as a live bonus track, hilariously rendered by Crawford at the conclusion of the play. I absolutely recommend giving this musical by a master composer a chance. Happy listening!
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2005
This is ALW's comeback, to try and capture some of the glory of his shows (such as "The Phantom of the Opera", "Starlight Express", "Cats", "Evita" and anything prior to Sunset Boulevard).

The cast here is perfection, simply put, in my humble opinion. Although this show certainly has its detractors, and even the cast has its detractors (or haters, if the word shall be put); for me, this is brilliant. At times, the repeative music gets boring (but not stupid or crap, like one reviewer bashed), but it really flows well and the cast and the music make up for it. :D

Michael Crawford as Count Fosco (indeed this is probebly where the harshest of the cast criticism comes from, and especially no less from the composer himself, Andrew Lloyd Webber, although not in a professional manner, but we will leave that bit of news there) is just, simply put, IMHO, phenomenal and astounding!! :D Although indeed, having heard the show live, myself (and I assume that the USA detractors, who so cruelly bash this show and Michael Crawford, get upset with this and I will say, at least on the later songs after the gambling scene, are right), Michael does not do as good on this as he does live. In the live show, after the cautious premiere, he does a brilliant crescendo in "You Can Get a Way with Anything" <unlike both the tracks on here, which coincidentally were both recorded live, and on the same day, but just minus the audience on one> and Michael took off with the role; combing the perfect elements of subtlity and geniality as he had with Erik (only in this... well best not ruin it for those who never saw the show). Although he is no longer in the role; which is tragic and he no longer will associate with the role (due to the fact that the rubber suit he wears made him physically sick. Apparently Mike Myers had this trouble also, when he did "Fat Bastard" in the Austin Powers films), he is the BEST Fosco, I have ever heard. And I have heard Michael Ball, Steve Vernon, Anthony Andrews, and, surprisingly, Simon Callow (from the 2004 TPOTO film, he also, let it be known, already did the role of Fosco for the PBS Masterpiece Theater, and he praised MC's work in this. Both are brilliant acting wise, but singing wise, MC beats him to the punch.)

The music is even more creepy and dark toned that its predecessors' were (including "The Phantom of the Opera" respectively) and the style of the show and the plot is brilliant. (Whoever does not like, at least, the plot, that is their personal business but let it be known that the story itself of "The Woman in White" written by Wilkie Collins is brilliant, although indeed, this version, like ALW has a habit of doing, is not in line with the story itself ("The Phantom of the Opera" is a huge testament to that, but with that said I am not knocking TPOTO, it is still my fave show of ALW's, with TWIW a close second), although some of his other shows like Cats, Joseph and the Amazing Techincolor Dreamcoat, and <more or less> Evita; follow the stories or real life plots more exactly.

If anyone saw the show, this really is a breakthrough in that, although there are physical sets, this uses a highly techincal projection system to project a broader scope of scene onto the back of the stage. The costuming was really quite period and nothing, date wise, was out of league, except in perhaps some points of style in music.

The cast, as I said, was brilliant and Michael Crawford, who was the reason why and how I got interested in the show , being, already a favourite cast member; I also love Angela Christian's "Anne Catherick" who really outshines, with the exception of Michael and Oliver Darley (who plays the dark Percival Glyde, whom I love also), the rest of the cast, although Maria and Martin hold their own as well, as does Jill.

This show deserves to be heard and understood, at least, or seen and heard, at best. But with that said, every show has its detractors but as far for me, this show really "haunts you". :D
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