Vanities – Cast Recording Review

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I’m going to start this weeks review by sharing a little bit of information about myself. I hold an undergraduate degree in English and am currently training to become a high school English teacher. I have studied English most of my life and the thing that always amazes me is how our word choice can reflect what we mean more than we can even comprehend. When I noticed saw the original cast recording of a musical titled called “Vanities” I falsely assumed it would be a story about expecting out appearances etc. It was only after Googling the official definition of the word “Vanity” that I realised that yes it can be used to describe someone who is excessively proud of the external appearance but also someone who has admiration for their achievements! Here was me thinking it was an insult for people who were obsessed with their outward appearance when it can also be used to show someone proud of what they have achieved. This links to the musical as “Vanities” is a musical that documents the journey of three vivacious Texans teens as they go from cheerleaders to sorority sisters to housewives to liberated/strong women.

In a recent English lesson, a young learner asked me about changing tenses during a creative writing task. I recommended against doing this as it is very difficult to do effectively and can be very confusing to both the writer or the reader. However, what I should have done is recommended them to check out this new musical as it manages to travel through the 70s, 80s and 90s flawlessly. The girls travel through their lives to mark important decision and life milestones. They quickly realise that life isn’t perfect and there are high points and equally low points but the only people they can count on is one another. The show contains a female cast and focuses on an authentic representation of their journey to date. The cast includes the incredible Anneliese van der pool who is most famously know for playing Chelsea in the Disney Channel series “That’s So Raven!” It was only recently that I discovered that Anneliese made her name original for her work in the theatre industry so I was super excited to see what her performance skill was like outside of the comedy side character. The stories are narratives that any female would be able to access and relate to which makes it a much for the impactful show. It is a story about life, sisterhood and friendship but manages to capture life in all its complexity incredibly well.

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The opening song setting your sights is a song performed by the three main performers (Lauren Kennedy, Sarah Stiles and Anneliese) who’s voices work beautifully together and was incredible to listen to. This song and “An organised life” reappear multiple times throughout the show to help make a much more cohesive listening experience. The 1968 version of “An organised life” is a clear reference to the time it is set in but also discusses the controversy of musical at the time. It also contained a hilarious impression of the iconic Carol Channing which I personally really enjoyed! The song “flying into the future” performed by Lauren Kennedy was incredible. Lauren is a very talented vocalist as this song was beautifully performed! Her voice encapsulated the emotional build-up of the song amazingly while still be beautiful to listen to. The song itself discusses the dreams and aspiration of the character Mary where there is no limitation of the things she could achieve. The song “let life happen” was the moment I waited for as soon as I notice the famous face was starring in this show. This was a solo performed by Annelise which began as a jazz-inspired, almost elevator music vibe. It discusses how we don’t need an organised life (which is a regular idea explored in the show) but instead, we should live in the moment and live life to the max!

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My favourite song throughout the whole musical had to be “the same old music” which explores the idea of how important friendships are. It discusses the sense of nostalgia we experience with old friends and how time seems to stop in these situations. The song built an image in my mind of a group of friends sat in a coffee shop with a flash mob building at the peaks of the music. I imagine the dancing waiter was in the traditional American stripped uniform dancing with domestic items. “Friendship isn’t what it used to be” is one of the most emotional songs I have heard in a long time, I even shed a little tear! Things have changed so much in 2021 and on top of that, we are all living different loves so the time with friends has become even more meaningful.

Overall, this is a musical that provides an honest and authentic description of real life, especially for modern day females. The show moves through the time zones effortlessly and contains so many very moving songs that are only more emotional given the current circumstances. I enjoyed listening to Anneliese as I hadn’t thought of her as a performer but she can sing! I would rate this show 4.5 out of 5 stars!

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