Putting her unique interpretation on every classic stage musical tune in this 11-song cover set, Susan Boyle delivers another quality album with her fourth CD, Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs from the Stage. Of course, with a single Rodgers and Hammerstein tune, whether these are the greatest stage songs is a dubious claim, but Ms. Boyle, who broke out on YouTube in 2009 and followed up with an excellent first recording, offers a distinguished approach to each version.
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (The Wizard of Oz) is beautifully rendered in classic downbeat tone. “The Winner Takes It All” (Mamma Mia!) is also respectful, as is “Memory” (Cats), which manages to achieve the looping effect consistent with the stage musical unlike other cover versions, and “Out Here on My Own” (Fame) and “As Long as He Needs Me” (Oliver!) are the most in-character versions on the recording. They’re all fine and interesting if you like Susan Boyle’s voice, and I do, and they are not the most obvious selections. The formerly bullied singer adds liner notes to why she picked each tune.
Renditions often end abruptly, the opposite of showier cover versions. She changes context for “Bring Him Home”, a brilliant and emotional song written about a young man sent to war and meant to be sung by the character Jean Valjean from the 1980s stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Her pairings with Donny Osmond for a bouyant song from Jekyll & Hyde, “This is Our Moment”, and “All I Ask of You” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, work well. The Phantom himself, iconic Michael Crawford who made the title stage role his own, still brings magic to the dark, music box ghost tune in a separately recorded duet. Another haunting ballad, Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” (A Little Night Music), is plainly delivered. Her simple, capable voice has matured and it helps that both partners and material are thoughtfully chosen, produced and arranged to suit Susan Boyle’s strengths.
I am not a musical or a vocal expert and I do not think she has one of the greatest voices of all time, though she certainly more than carries a tune. Yet I think her sustained popularity since emerging from obscurity continues to stem from her evident respect for music, which she sings and, where appropriate, belts out like it means something. Her talent is what it is. The songs are what they are. The combination is worth both a listen and a round of applause.