REVIEW: Instructions For Dancing, Zachary Morris and Ben van Tienen ✭✭✭✭

Instructions For Dancing EP
Zachary Morris and Ben van Tienen
4 Stars
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Instructions for Dancing is an EP released by Zachary Morris and Ben van Tienen and featuring these two talented artists. Both gents work in musical theatre but this is no self-aggrandising show tune album. Featuring five tracks, the EP is an eclectic mix of musical theatre and pop featuring tracks by Alan Menken, Jerry Herman, Richard Rodgers, the Magnetic Fields and Stevie Nicks!

The tracks are improvisational in nature in that this is a true intuitive blending of vocalist and accompanist/arranger. It’s fresh and quite magical in its presentation.

As a musical theatre nerd it was interesting to hear Away From You. Taken from the score of Richard Rodgers and Sheldon Harnick’s little known 1975 musical Rex about the life of King Henry VIII. It’s interpretations of songs like this that ignite interest in lesser known scores. Just like Meadowlark did for The Baker’s Wife, I daresay this recording (one of the few in existence I’m led to believe) might just bring people back to the score of Rex for another look.

Fans of Mame will delight in Loving You which was written for the film adaptation of Jerry Herman’s musical. Zachary’s take is a little bit more lyrical than Robert Preston’s but there’s an unmistakable warmth that permeates the track.

Instructions for Dancing featuring Zachary Morris and Ben van Tienen
Zachary Morris and Ben Van Tienen.

Pop heathen that I am I was a Magnetic Fields virgin until hearing The Book Of Love on this EP. With music and lyrics by Stephin Merritt, this track forms one of two non-musical theatre tracks on the EP the second being Gypsy with music and lyrics by Stevie Nicks. Both are exquisitely performed by Morris and Van Tienen. Interestingly enough without knowing their origin, both could easily have been drawn from any number of musical theatre scores.

For me though where this collaboration takes flight is with Just Around The Riverbend by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz from Pocahontas. Listen to this track and here just how at one these two artists are. A soaring gorgeous vocal backed by a truly enchanting accompaniment that is so light and delicate following every nuance of the vocal allowing both to take flight. It’s simply mesmerising.

This EP could easily have become a very heavy-handed, overpowering series of over-produced tracks and it is to the credit and artistry of these two performers that Instructions for Dancing is a calling card that I am sure will have people asking for more.

More, please!


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