In the present day, musical theatre often finds itself as the butt of the joke in the entertainment field.
Big belts and schmaltzy scores aren’t for everyone, but every so often something comes along to remind us why we really must treasure this joyous form.
Currently treading the boards in Les Miserables in Auckland, actor Hayden Tee’s latest album is a real love letter to his craft.
As a seasoned professional who has honed his skills for some time, it’s perhaps not surprising that Tee delivers knockout vocals with real emotion behind every word. The album is less music and more performance through song.
Featuring standards from some of Tee’s most memorable performances – notably Miss Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical and both Javert and Marius in Les Miserables – “Face to Face” has something to please everyone.
Opening with the swelling “Stars”, Tee offers listeners a peek into his stunning portrayal of Javert with a restrained yet powerful performance of the ballad.
The album covers well-known standards, but weighs more favourably to newer musical numbers – including those from Jason Robert Brown’s 2014 musical The Bridges of Madison County and Tim Minchin’s Matilda the Musical.
It’s Minchin’s score where the internationally renowned star really delights; his “The Smell of Rebellion” is a sickly-sweet, delectable number with as many twists and turns as a night at the opera. Tee’s Trunchbull is delightfully rotten, complete with over-indulgent rolling R’s and enunciation that even the most accomplished actor would be jealous of.
The track perfectly captures our imagination, and one may well be sitting in the stalls with a Cheshire cat grin plastered across their face.
Coupling with musical theatre royalty John Owen-Jones for a rendition of “Lily’s Eyes”, he proves just as comfortable as a duet partner.
Each track stands on its own, with a superbly rich orchestration bringing new depth. “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” becomes even more desperate and searing than ever.
It’s only a pity that there was not more opportunity to delve into the archives a little further. While modern numbers are well-aired, a real oldie like “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel would be a sure-fire winner with the powerhouse of Tee’s vocals behind it.
That said, it’s difficult not to become lost in the deep orchestrations and stunning delivery from Tee. It’s hard to capture the joy of a live performance without being there – yet “Face to Face” proves that this isn’t always the case.
In short, the Kiwi star proves that musical theatre has legs and it’s here to stay.
As a means of escaping from the doom and gloom of the winter nights, “Face to Face” is just the ticket.