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BLOG : Top Ten Worst Musical Theatre Covers

Wednesday 06 May 2015

By Nicky Sweetland

Whilst idolly listening to the radio the other day, a particular song came on that had my musical theatre geek on high alert. Not, as you may think because there was a fabulous new West End musical to watch, no this had my musical theatre juices running cold. The song was a cover version of a classic from musical theatre and as a purist I was plunged into an electric misdemeanour of pop disaster. I decided to dig around and find more of these abhorrent offerings of poptastic faux pas. Here are some of what I found, the top ten worst musical theatre covers.

10. 'I Am What I Am' from Le Cage Aux Folles, covered by Gloria Gaynor. 
Although Gaynor's version is a disco classic, the original has a very specific meaning, and I think much of this was lost when sung in this way by a woman.  

9. 'I Have A Dream' from Mamma Mia!, covered by Westlife. 
I loved the original Abba version of this song and really love the musical theatre one, which is wonderfully used as the opening to Mamma Mia! and sung by the bride-to-be Sophie. Unfortunately the 1999 Westlife version completely over cheesed it! It's video even boasted the obligatory boy band standing up during the key change moment. 

8. 'No Matter What' from Whistle Down The Wind, covered by Boyzone.
Another boy band addition to the list, this is a bit of a cheat as it was recorded specifically to coincide with the first production of the show in the West End and was on an album of pop style covers from the show. I really liked this production which boasted an original cast including the wonderful Laura Michelle Kelly, who is now starring in Gary Barlow's Neverland on Broadway. The cast recording was much better!

7. 'Perfect Year' from Sunset Boulevard covered by Dina Carrol
This was again released to help promote the show when it was first produced in the West End and again illustrates why pop stars should leave the musical theatre genre alone. This one contains far to much trilling and moving in and out of the tune, which is a shame because the music to this show is by far my favourite of the Lloyd Webber scores. I would dearly love to see a revival. 

6. 'I Dreamed A Dream' from Les Miserables covered by Susan Boyle
Although not the worst version of this song I've ever heard (I have a copy with a guy singing it in country and Western Style!) I am affronted that this wonderful classic balled from Les Miserables is now know as Subo's song. 

5. 'Hard Knock Life' from Annie covered by Annie-Jay Z
Never ever put rap in musical theatre, the end! 

4. 'Leaning On A Lampost' from Me And My Girl covered by George Formby
Those younger readers may not know of this version and I would suggest it's not one to listen out for. Formby took what is a beautiful love song, and turned it into a monotonous trawl of Ukulele hell. A version that is much more palatable is the West End recording which includes Robert Lindsey, recently of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at The Savoy and Emma Thompson who appeared in Sweeney Todd at the London Coliseum.

3. 'You'll Never Walk Alone' from Carousel covered by Gerry and The Pacemakers
I'm sorry to disappoint the thousands of Liverpool football fans but this beautiful song is originally from the Rogers and Hammersten masterpiece Carousel which is still one of my favourite musicals. It's sung by the show's matriarch Aunt Nessy and is the most poignant part of this heart wrenching show. For me personally, sixty thousand blokes singing it on the terraces isn't quite the same.

2. 'You're The One That I Want' from Grease covered by Arthur Mullard and Hylda Baker
This shameful piece of 'music' entered the UK chart in 1978 and really is TV gold for all of the wrong reasons. With forgotten words and the majority of the singing out of tune, this is like a cringingly my bad karaoke version.

1. 'Happy Talk' from South Pacific covered by Captain Sensible
The worst ever cover of a musical theatre song has to be the 1981 number one hit by Captain Sensible. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a huge fan of South Pacific, having languished in the chorus for a very mediocre amateur production, compete with streaky fake tan a few years ago, but this cover version is truly awful. It's one of those annoying earworms that just won't leave you alone. 

Most these awful songs are available for you to groan at on YouTube. If you get time to watch them it will show you just how lucky you are that the trend for pop stars covering musical theatre seems to be over for now. I really hope this bent never returns to burden our ears with the terrible electric mess that has ruined so many glorious songs. 

Stay tuned for the top ten best musical covers including a true classic from Sweet Charity!

tags: Classics, West End Favourites, Drama


By Nicky Sweetland

Nicky is fanatical about musical theatre and loves to watch as much of it as she can.

Please note: Opinions expressed on the londontheatredirect.com blog are those of the relevant contributors, not of London Theatre Direct Ltd, its owners or staff. London Theatre Direct Ltd is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by contributors.

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