I just finished listening to the cast album of Metropolis for the second time this month after not listening to it for years. Certainly, having read up a bit about it too, it seems as though the technology required to run the set overwhelmed everything else in the original production and the critics certainly didn’t hold their punches in their criticism of the book, score and lyrics. Of course, the show is a hot mess, but not one that is unsalvagable by any means. My favourite songs in the score are “It’s Only Love/Bring on the Night”, “You are the Light” and “The Sun”. “One of Those Nights” also has a great deal going for it, despite the very obvious flubs in the lyrics. There is some great work in the “101.11” theme, which is again reprised in “50,000 Pounds of Power/One More Morning”. While there certainly is a prominent use of motifs, both musically and in the lyrics, the biggest problem I have with the score is its lack of coherence. There are so many competing musical styles here (power ballads, disco, folk, gospel and so on) that the show just doesn’t ever come together as the sum of its parts. The orchestrations don’t help either. One presumes that the synthesisers were meant to give the impression of futuristic technology back in the 1980s. Although I have my doubts about how convincing a ploy this actually was even back then, the synthesisers just sound hopelessly dated now.
Certainly, a mainstream revival of the the show would need a thorough overhaul to address the problems of the show, but with the recent suicide of Joe Brooks, who was basically the driving creative force behind this show and relaive inactivity of lyricist Dusty Hughes, things look pretty bleak for a major revival of the show at this point. It’s great to have such a complete cast album, although I find the acting and singing incredibly uneven. A perfectly pitched Judy Kuhn is paired with a generic sounding and rather bland Graham Bickley. Brian Blessed soars so far over the top in his role that he’s basically out of sight. The accents are all over the place. Characters and actors get lost in all the noise made by the score. If this is any reflection of what the performances were like, it’s not hard to imagine why this was less than compelling back in the 1980s. Many a mediocre show has been saved by virtuoso performances, but – besides Kuhn – Metropolis doesn’t seem like it got it together in that area either. Kuhn sounds like she is busting her ass to try and hold things together, but it’s just not enough. Even so, Metropolis is an interesting listen if nothing else, that’s for sure.
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