Clive Nolan and his Caamora Theatre Company brought their epic concept album "Alchemy" to life on the stage of the Wyspianski Theatre in Katowice, Poland on February 22, 2013. And for those among us who could not afford the cab or airfare to commute to Poland and witness the performance first-hand, "Alchemy Live" allows us to enjoy this amazing theatrical event in the comfort of our own home.
I wrote an extensive review on the double-CD "Alchemy" here at ProgNaut earlier this year and would refer anyone to the Review Archive for a critical appraisal of the music. This review will strictly cover the production and performance of the live concert DVD.
This musical tale of magic, mystery, and adventure set in Victorian England is equal parts Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom Of The Opera" and Stephen Spielberg’s "Raiders Of The Lost Ark".
The plot of "Alchemy" is best described by Nolan himself:
“Alchemy” is a tale that reaches deep into the mysteries that mankind has striven to solve for centuries: the story of the shadowy world of alchemy … dark science … and the supernatural. This is a Victorian 'Steampunk' tale of adventure, passion, betrayal and revenge. The search for lost secrets. The lust for retribution. And the quest for the greatest power on earth. It's a race for the ultimate prize … transforming lead into gold, changing death into life, or perhaps turning hatred into love.”
I'd wholeheartedly agree. There is a definite Steampunk aspect to the visuals - whether intended or otherwise. The juxtaposition of Victorian garbed characters and 19th Century backdrops playing against modern day lighting effects, an electrified rock ensemble, and the mechanized camera-mounted boom-crane panning across the stage provides a picturesque landscape that can only exist in hybrid sci-fi fantasy tales. A treat for the eyes as well as ears.
"Alchemy" is as ambitious as any Broadway musical - just on a tighter budget.
The cast of characters varies slightly from the album, but most of the principle players have returned from the studio version to reprise their roles on stage, which includes:
Special mention should be given to the stand-out performance of 16 year old Sohelia Clifford in the role of Jessamine. Her rendition of the tune "Desperate Days" (originally recorded on the album by Noel Calcaterra ) was one of the the highlights of the show. Sohelia is the daughter of David Clifford who plays the role of William Gardelle. And a proud father he must be. And from what I've discovered of this talented young lady is that she's been knocking them dead - singing, dancing, and modeling - since the age of five. And in that time has amassed well over 100 medals and awards for her work. At the age of 10 Sohelia made quite an impression on Simon Cowell when she competed on "Britain’s' Got Talent" in 2008. Clive Nolan would do well to make her a permanent fixture in the Caamora Theatre Company.
- Agnieszka Swita (Amelia Darvas)
- Clive Nolan (Professor Samuel King)
- Eva Bonaduce (Victoria Bolley)
- David Clifford (William Gardelle)
- Tracy Hitchings (Jane Muncey)
- Andy Sears (Lord Henry Jagman)
- Christopher Longman (Ben Greaves)
- Paul Menel (Milosh)
- Chris Lewis (Thomas Anzeray)
- Damian Wilson (Captain Joseph Farrell)
- Paul Manzi (Milosh)
- Soheila Clifford (Jessamine)
Other stand-out tracks include Clive Nolan' s spirited performance on the tune "Quanternary Plan", and Andy Sear's delightfully wicked "The End Justifies The Means".
It was a bit of a shock not seeing Clive Nolan in his usual spot behind a bank of keyboards. But for the 2/22/2013 performance at the Wyspianski Theatre he was front-and-center as Professor Samuel King, the derring-do leader of expedition - doing something he seldom does in his bands ... sing lead. His commanding vocal style is well suited for a theatrical musical.
This night the keyboard responsibility was relegated to Claudio Momberg - who appears on the album as well. Joining Momberg on stage were were Caamora Theatre Company regulars Mark Westwood (guitars), Scott Higham (drums), and Kylan Amos (bass), with special contributions from Ian Scott (horn) and Penelope Gee (violin).
As I originally suggested in my review of the album - this may not be for everyone.
Simply because Clive Nolan is associated with bands like Arena, Pendragon, and Shadowland don't assume his production of "Alchemy" is the standard fare progressive rock 'concept album' we've come to regard from bands like Genesis ("Lamb Lies Down On Broadway"), "Jethro Tull ("A Passion Play" and "Thick As A Brick"), YES ("Tales From Topographic Oceans"), Spock's Beard ("Snow"), or IQ ("Subterranea"). "Alchemy" has more in common with Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats" or Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street" than Rick Wakeman's live production of "Journey To the Center Of The Earth".
"Alchemy Live" has wide enough appeal that I can envision the concert airing on my local PBS station during one of their pledge drive weeks, sandwiched between a rebroadcast of The Four Tenors and the Pink Floyd tribute band Brit Floyd. Appealing to both the cultured black tie and tails sophisticated listener as well as the adventurous open-minded young music lover willing to expand their comfort zone and soak in a little culture.
"Alchemy Live" is a visually stunning multimedia event, combining imaginative storytelling with accessible show tunes.
It's available as a single DVD, which includes the complete concert, a making of "Alchemy Live" featurette, plus three separate interviews with Clive Nolan, Agnieszka Swita and David Clifford, and guitarist Mark Westwood and drummer Scott Higham. And also presented as a 2 DVD & 3 CD box set collection which includes the complete concert and the interviews on DVD disc one, plus a bonus disc of supplemental features which include: Meet the Characters: Video Stings, Marcel Haster's Interview with Clive Nolan, The Fundraisers: A Tribute, John Vis' Zoertermeer Fundraiser Video: (Covenant of Faith, Closer, Desperate Days, The Warning), Guitars for 'Alchemy' with Mark Westwood, Magda's HandyCam Diary, and Clive Nolan Discusses the 'Alchemy' Themes. The CD portion of the box set includes Act I & II on two CDs, plus a third disc with 18 demo track and alternative versions of several tunes.
The closest comparison I can make to "Alchemy Live" would be Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of War Of The Worlds. Or better yet - Clive Nolan's production of "She".
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on December 15th, 2013