John Barrowman and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Centre Stage

Westway Music

Release Date: November 11th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

John Barrowman and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra– Centre Stage (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Pure Imagination (Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory)
  2. Corner Of The Sky (Pippin)
  3. Don’t Rain On My Parade (Funny Girl)
  4. Heart Of Stone (feat. Natalie Paris) (Six The Musical)
  5. Man Of La Mancha (Man Of La Mancha)
  6. I Get A Kick Out Of You (Anything Goes)
  7. Marry Me A Little / Being Alive (Company)
  8. Beautiful City (Godspell)
  9. As If We Never Said Goodbye (Sunset Boulevard)
  10. It All Fades Away (The Bridges Of Madison County)

A few years ago, I reviewed actor/Broadway singer John Barrowman’s Christmas album A Fabulous Christmas. It was a powerful, inspirational, encouraging, eloquent, compelling, and honest collection of heartfelt originals, poignant covers and instant fan-favourites and Christmas classics. It was a holiday album that came out of nowhere, and promptly set me on a path of discovering the beauty of music from the acclaimed actor. Now John Barrowman isn’t a ‘official’ singer if you know what I mean- as in a recording artist comparable to today’s pop artists. And that’s because he’s so much more than a singer. Mostly well-known for his acting abilities and his roles in Arrow (Malcolm Merlyn) and Torchwood (Captain Jack Harkness), this British/American singer, actor, presenter, author, and Broadway/theatre extraordinaire released (in my opinion), one of the most versatile, emotional, and impacting Christmas albums that I have heard in 2019 when I reviewed the album. You can read all about John and his life on Wikipedia– and also debate the reasons as to why I am voicing my opinion on an artist who clearly has differing world views as I do (as John has been married to his husband for years and years!); but what I will say is that as God has worked through many people in the past whom we have and the wider world has deemed unworthy, different, broken, unusable; so too has Jesus worked through John to create a stellar and near-flawless Christmas recording- and one that needs to be heard over the year. Fast forward to now, and John is back, this time with an album full of Broadway numbers. Centre Stage released in November 2022, and is an album that celebrates John’s journey in theatre throughout the many, many years. And even though I’m not that well-versed in almost all of the iconic and legendary songs John has covered; this project and labour of love, still stands tall amongst the many album releases in 2022, as well as the many Broadway/orchestral albums I’ve heard throughout my life.

This [Centre Stage] is what I’d call my quintessential musical theatre album. It’s not just songs from shows I was in, the concept is the journey of my musical theatre career. Corner Of The Sky was my go-to song when I was auditioning for shows back in 1989-91. There’s Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was the first book I ever read so it takes me back to the love of adventure and imagination. There’s a booklet that comes with it telling the stories behind the songs.

There are tears shed when you sing certain songs. I wanted to do something different to what I’d sung before and friends of ours were visiting and suggested It All Fades Away from the musical Bridges Of Madison County. I’d never heard it and I fell in love with it. When I was recording it I got a feeling to go back to my Scottish roots and sing in my Scottish brogue that everybody always seems to be amazed at when I speak with Lorraine Kelly or any other Scottish person. When I played it [the album] for my mum and dad, my mum was streaming in tears because it reminds her of her mother, Mern. I was in my car at the time and on the sat nav map, it showed a road called Mern Place. I had chills.

Listening to this 10-track album, it’s plain to me that I have no business reviewing any of these tracks. I don’t know the originals, and I haven’t seen any of the musicals these songs have originated from. I know, I’m very uncultured (aren’t we all to some degree), and I think I have preferred throughout my life to stick to TV shows, movies and music over theatre and Broadway productions. But what Centre Stage and all of its splendour, awesomeness, and magnificence, has taught me, is that music can cross borders, and music indeed is the universal language. That is most certainly the case with John and this near-flawless project. “Pure Imagination”, “Corner Of The Sky”, “Heart Of Stone”, “As If We Never Said Goodbye”, and “It All Fades Away” (complete with John’s noticeable homegrown Scottish accent!) are the songs I connected with the most (even without watching these stage productions); and John has exquisitely recorded an album that demands to be listened to. If you are uncultured like me, then don’t worry, because these songs have a life of their own and can be listened to independent of the theatre production, they’re a part of.

As we have all been probably at saturation point when listening to the same artists over and over again, John Barrowman’s most recent release is a breath of fresh air! I used to think that God only spoke through people who were Christians, but now I know that God uses anyone He wants to, to further His kingdom; and so too am I realising that John’s music has its place in society. You may disagree with John on how he lives his life, but there’s no denying the power of the Holy Spirit in these tracks as we are glimpsed into John’s story and marvel at his seemingly unparalleled vocal ability, probably on par with Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban in my honest opinion. With Centre Stage being one of the most impacting and inspiring albums I’ve heard from 2022; I suggest all of you to take a listen to John’s vulnerable and personal album. So well done John. I may not fully agree with how you live your life, but I do love your album. And this I will tell my friends and family over and over. I’m not a Broadway or theatre fan by any means, but John has put on a show in singing, and reminds us that music can touch your soul and from a genre you probably don’t expect. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s make the rest of 2023 a good one, and let’s start with Centre Stage!

3 songs to listen to: Corner Of The Sky, Heart Of Stone, It All Fades Away

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Josh Groban, Lea Michele, Kelly Clarkson, Idina Menzel, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston


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