Another week, another musical to rave about! This time it’s a completely new discovery: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn.
I came across this totally by accident – I’m a big fan of Fra Fee and so a Youtube video from What’sOnStage popped up in my recommendations; a video of him recording a song called The Turning of the Key. Naturally, I pressed play and found that it was part of a studio cast album for an upcoming release called The Clockmaker’s Daughter.
I loved the song from the first line. I sent the link to my husband who texted back “Well this is really uplifting. We need to download when it’s out.” It was released on the 14th so we bought the album on the train down to Edinburgh to see Les Miserables (gushy review about that show here) and it’s basically never been off my iPod since.
The whole album has a wonderfully Celtic feel which immediately snared my wee Scottish heart. The story – an original fairy tale – is set in the small Irish town of Spindlewood in the late 19th century; the sort of town where nothing ever seems to change. Will Riley (Fra Fee), the son of the local seamstress, longs for more from life while Abraham Reed (Ramin Karimloo), the town clockmaker, is left bereft by the death of his daughter. Mourning her loss, he sets out to build a mechanical replication of her so that he can still have some part of his beloved child with him.
Unwittingly, Abraham creates a cognitive (😉) android who he names Constance (a spectacular Christine Allado) and charges her to never venture out into the town. Full of curiosity for the world outside, she defies him and so the story unfolds from there. I don’t want to give away any more of the plot – it will spoil the emotional impact of the songs if you know what’s coming! I’m still both sad and astonished by the revelation at the very end of Act 2.
Not only is the story itself enchanting, but the songs are absolutely superb; alternately sweet, uplifting, bittersweet and tragic. Ramin Karimloo does anguished yearning better than pretty much anyone on the planet and his performance of You’re Still Here is a punch to the heart. I am admittedly a total sap who will cry at the drop of a hat, but I can’t listen to that song if I have makeup on because the second half of it makes me howl every single time.
Fra Fee and Christine Allado, charming and sweet respectively as Will and Constance, have you rooting for them the whole way through the album. Where You’ll Be is a gorgeously evocative duet and is up there with all of the great musical theatre love songs. I also loved the big ensemble pieces with the layered vocals, especially the opener. The rest of the cast are brilliant and Hannah Waddingham makes for a great villain in the guise of Ma Riley.
Although it’s set in 19th Century, the story is in some ways intensely modern. It deals with prejudice and bigotry; what happens when someone who is ‘other’ arrives in an insular community. It explores what is best and what is basest in human nature, and the story’s messages couldn’t be more relevant to the world we’re living in today.
You can download the album via iTunes or buy a hard copy via Auburn Jam Records (it’s a really nice looking CD). I would heartily recommend you go ahead and do so – you won’t be disappointed.
I really, really hope we’ll soon get a stage version of this. I’ll definitely be in the queue to go and see it!