Versatile leading man David Harris will please theatre fans with his new release At This Stage, featuring more than a dozen classic favourites from the world of musicals.
Having worked as a professional actor for almost 15 years, Harris has built a legion of fans and an impressive catalogue of hit roles. His first album, ‘Til The Night Is Gone, was a collection of mellow, heartfelt ballads, featuring only a smattering of Broadway, while At This Stage is all show tunes. The choice of tracks has obviously been made very carefully, with Harris’ personal connection to the songs shining through.
With two of Harris’ signature songs already included on his first album (“I Honestly Love You” from The Boy From Oz and the gorgeous “You Walk With Me” from Harris’ first high profile leading role, Malcolm, in The Full Monty), another two he has performed on stage are featured this time. Arguably his biggest role to date has been Chris in the Australian tour of Miss Saigon, and “Why God, Why?” is the big tenor solo from this thrilling show. Currently a member of the cast of Wicked, which opened in Singapore this week, Harris has teamed with current Elphaba Gemma Rix for the stirring act two duet “As Long As You’re Mine”.
Broadway legends Rodgers and Hammerstein are well represented with three songs. The gorgeous “If I loved You” from Carousel benefits from a new and unusual piano arrangement – take away the vocal and it would be difficult to pick this song. “Younger Than Springtime” is a match made in heaven for Harris’ tender, earnest style. Is this, perhaps, an audition of sorts?
A pair of songs usually reserved for much older voices achieves varied results. “The Impossible Dream” makes absolute sense as the dreams of a passionate young man. “Bring Him Home” makes beautiful use of Harris’ exquisite falsetto but is not as well suited to a younger interpretation, with the latter stages becoming more of a power ballad than a gentle prayer. Maybe we will see Harris in this role on stage in about 25 years time.
In addition to current leading lady Rix, Harris has drawn on the contributions of another couple of colleagues. Kellie Rode joins him for a West Side Story medley and it must be mentioned that Rode displays a bell-like soprano that it is difficult to recollect ever hearing in the theatre. Lucy Durack, Australia’s own Kristin Chenoweth, joins Harris for the gorgeous duet “I See The Light” that will have listeners rushing out to watch their Tangled blu-ray again.
Other time-honoured selections “Corner of the Sky” (Pippin) and “Anthem” (Chess) suit Harris’ talents well, and their inclusion makes his liner notes about listening to these favourites in his car, gunning the accelerator, even clearer. “Unchained Melody” is probably the most recent track on the recording, although it is much closer in style to the Righteous Brothers’ recording heard in the movie than the way Sam sings it in the new stage musical Ghost. “Unexpected Song” brings the album to a stirring, emotional conclusion.
A hallmark of Harris’ style throughout is his sincere, candid tone, which reveals many of the lyrics as if heard for the first time. With time-honoured classics like these that is some achievement.
Kudos to Harris’ co-producer David Cameron, who played all instruments apart from drums and cello, which is a truly remarkable effort. The unique arrangements of the songs add significantly to the interest and character of the album.
Any theatregoer who has enjoyed watching Harris in a theatre is sure to enjoy At This Stage. Congratulations to all involved for the effort, skills and love that has gone into this recording. Fingers crossed that we will have the chance to hear the material live as was the case with ‘Til The Night Is Gone.
Photos: Wicked: Jeff Busby; Thoroughly Modern Millie: Simon Parris