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Songs from Miss Saigon

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Album Review

Despite its worldwide success as a stage production, the musical Miss Saigon, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's follow-up to Les Misérables, spawned relatively few recordings, but an early one was this modest disc, which annotator Chris White refers to as a "'concert' version," in the sense that it is really a singers' record, not a full-scale studio cast recording. (It was not, however, recorded in concert.) Eleven of the show's songs are presented as showcases for Carl Wayne (former lead singer for the Move) and stage star Kim Criswell without regard to the characters who originally sang them; Wayne simply sings all the male roles and Criswell all the female ones. Since there are a lot of characters in the show and the songs are sometimes performed by more than one, this doesn't always work. For example, Criswell alone sings "I Still Believe," written as a duet for the competing characters of Kim and Ellen, and the lyric doesn't make sense sung by one person. This relatively low-key effort puts the emphasis on the songs' music and lyrics, which doesn't always do favors for the score. As ever, the cynical songs for the Engineer, "If You Want to Die in Bed" and "The American Dream," are more interesting than the overwrought ballads. But the singers are good: Carl Wayne is a more expressive vocalist than he was in his rock-star days, and Kim Criswell (though you can't help feeling someone intended a joke by casting her in a show with lead characters named Kim and Chris) gives the material more conviction than it really deserves. This 1994 recording turned up in a reissued version in U.S. record stores in the spring of 2001 retailing for under five dollars. You get what you pay for.

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