WORTH A LOOK?: ****
TRACKLIST: Summer Romance; Apart Together; Airport Piano; The Absence Of You; I Can’t Save You; Talked Too Much, Stayed Too Long; Leaving LA; I’ll Take Lonely Tonight; Beautiful Head; If This Plane Goes Down; Carry You
The self-described ‘comedic minstrel’ born in Northampton to Australian parents is best known to us for writing the Olivier Award-winning musical Groundhog Day, which also won our Best Musical monsta.
- Read on for reasons including what Minchin is working on next
We also saw him perform at the Old Vic’s 200th birthday celebration in 2018 and it’s a surprise to us that this veteran of live albums (who also wrote Matilda – The Musical) is releasing his 1st conventional studio album this week.
Apart Together feels like it was written by someone who has spent too much time away from his partner and is disillusioned with LA. Minchin had moved there in 2013 to work on Larrikins, a planned Australian-themed animated musical film for DreamWorks Animation which he wrote the songs for and was set to co-direct before it was cancelled in March 2017.
For us the emotional centrepiece is the beautiful piano ballad I’ll Take Lonely Tonight in which the protagonist meets someone he is attracted to who reminds him that ‘for what is life for but to shag, drink and dance’.
However, he chooses to be lonely out of his loyalty to his partner he is away from because ‘my girl has my heart in a house half a planet away, And I’d rather murder than hurt her, So sorry though it feels so right, I’m gonna take lonely tonight.’
It’s a song that would be well suited to musical theatre because the song tells a story completed with an all-too-believable ‘and wake in four hours or so, Soaked in relief to find I am alone, With only the wrappers of Pringles and Snickers for which to atone, Blissfully alone.’
Minchin is a funny lyricist and Talked Too Much, Stayed Too Long feels autobiographical: ‘Took my eyeliner to Edinburgh in 2005, Played to 45 paying punters on the opening night, But to my surprise I was in rising demand for a lovechild of Liberace and Edward Scissorhands.’
In the title track he finds real poignancy in the story of a couple who die frozen in each other’s arms because they can’t afford their heating bill.
‘They may have lain there ’til spring, If it weren’t for the ping of their smoke alarm, God sure works in mysterious ways died of power bills left unpaid. Found by a neighbour who heard the ping, Dropped around offering Double A’s.’
We preferred Groundhog Day to Matilda saying: ‘The score is far more varied than Matilda (the last big Warchus/Minchin hit) … What perhaps gives Groundhog Day the edge is that it has so much heart and such a social conscience that it gave us massive It’s A Wonderful Life chills.’
And for us the joy of Minchin’s work is that he’s so talented that it’s always exciting to think about what he might do next.
In response to a Twitter Q&A, he revealed that he and a British playwright are currently in early development in writing a new musical, and will begin composing mid-2020. He also said that the musical is planned to open in Australia and will be a biographical story opposed to an original or adaptation.