A Musical Theatre Genius — in His Own Voice
Review of Maury Sings Yeston (PS Classics, 2020).
Maury Yeston’s Nine is one of the greatest musical theatre scores ever written. His other work includes the Tony-winning Titanic, Grand Hotel, and Phantom (not the Andrew Lloyd Webber version).
Now, thanks to a new recording, you can hear Yeston sing some of his best-known work.
Over the past few decades, PS Classics has created a series of musical theatre recordings featuring songwriters singing their own material; it’s perhaps my favorite set of musical theatre recordings ever made.
For all the wonderful, Tony-winning performers who have sung these works, no one can quite capture a song the way that its author can.
Maury Sings Yeston features the composer singing material from Nine, Titanic, Death Takes a Holiday, and some of his unproduced and lesser-known work. If you like musical theatre, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Nine is one of my favorite musicals. I’ve listened to the original cast recording well over 100 times. That album is iconic, and a recent re-release included demos of Yeston singing some of the tracks featured here. Maury Sings Yeston adds “Simple” and “The Bells of St. Sebastian” to that list.
(Yeston also sings all the parts on most of these recordings — something he’s dubbed the “Maury Tabernacle Choir” — but the effect is incredibly effective.)
The recordings are illuminating. Despite knowing Nine inside and out, I heard new things when listening the demos — especially in “The Bells of St. Sebastian.” No cut songs are featured here — and the demo recordings are largely similar to the versions that ended up in the show. My only complaint is I wish we could have gotten the entire demo of Nine on this CD.
Other demo recordings — like those from Titanic — reveal how different some of these shows and songs initially started out. “Barrett’s Song,” for example, takes place at a hearing after the Titanic sank, a framework that was abandoned when the show was eventually produced. I also preferred the original version of a song — “Sitting at the Captain’s Table” — to the version that eventually made the show (“What a Remarkable Age”). Still, the recordings are a valuable resource for musical theatre historians — and those who want to understand how these shows are made.
Of the lesser-known work featured here, my favorite by far was a musical about Goya that Yeston wrote for, and at the suggestion of, Placido Domingo. The music and lyrics are fantastic — so much so, that I went out and listened to the full original concept album. To be honest, I actually enjoyed some of Yeston’s own performances better. There’s also some great music in his work from the as-of-yet unproduced Club Moscow.
PS Classics is really doing a service by releasing these recordings — and there won’t be more of them if people don’t support the line. In fact, my only complaint is that I wish we could have gotten more music here.
Please go out and support — and purchase — Maury Sings Yeston.
David Meyers is a produced playwright, actor, and writer. More at www.Bloomywood.com.