Having already appeared in enough musicals to fill her debut album with career highlights, Patrice Tipoki shares the enormous breadth of her talent in the new release A Musical Heart.
From Disney to Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein to Boublil and Schönberg, and Queen to The Righteous Brothers, Tipoki’s incredible range of styles makes the collection sound like more of a compilation album than a solo recording. Belters cannot usually sing as sweetly, and sopranos do not usually have such a strong and expressive middle range. Tipoki’s every note is supremely assured, and her interpretation and expression demonstrate her innate musicality and significant acting skill.
At first glance, Tipoki’s playlist may look like a collection of safe favourites, but once the album is played, the variety quickly becomes evident. While megahit Les Misérables has thrust Tipoki into the public eye, the diversity of abilities she has displayed here suggests that she need never be out of work again. Some actresses have to wait for another of their signature type of roles to come along, but Tipoki jumps from majestically belting “Defying Gravity” to soaring sweetly in “Tonight” to rocking her way through “Somebody to Love” with apparent ease and highly polished flair.
There is a freedom to interpreting these songs away from their original settings. Working with her dear sister Laura Tipoki as Musical Director, Tipoki has mined the tracks for all the heartfelt meaning that can expressed, along with smatterings of playful and personal touches. “Shall We Dance” is reimagined as a waltz, with the piano accordion adding a wistfully romantic air. The accordion is heard again, adding an extra note of longing in the charmingly direct arrangement of “Anyone Can Whistle.”
Two of Tipoki’s signature hits are songs that music theatre fans have heard countless times over, yet they are given freshly compelling performances here. The full range of Elphaba’s emotional journey is heard in “Defying Gravity,” with Tipoki adding some extra vocal fireworks in the final thrilling bars. Likewise, Tipoki finds layers of feeling in Fantine’s poignant ballad “I Dreamed a Dream,” giving a more intimate edge to the quiet moments than can be done on stage.
Tipoki’s vocals are accompanied by thirteen contributing musicians on a range of instruments, giving the recording a touch of polish over similar vocal albums that only feature piano.
Of Laura and Patrice’s new arrangements, “Beauty and The Beast” is a particular delight, with evocative solo acoustic guitar enhancing the string quartet accompaniment. Haunting standard “Unchained Melody” features a gorgeous piano and strings accompaniment, with the added pleasure of the warm, expressive vocals of Tipoki’s Les Misérables co-star Simon Gleeson.
The standout track of the album is a sensational arrangement of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.” International singer Alex Boyé has collaborated with Laura and Patrice to create an “Africanized” version of the well-known romantic duet. Powerful percussive rhythms and the passionate vocals of Tipoki and Boyé sweep away the saccharine sweetness of the number, bringing it more in line with Lebo M’s contributions to the score of The Lion King.
A Musical Heart is released 1 May 2015.
A Musical Heart can be purchased from iTunes.
Photos: #2, 5: Kurt Sneddon, #3: Sebastien Arnold, #4: Simon Parris