Created during lockdown and prompted by the increase of domestic abuse incidents, this fascinating and engaging concept album shows the potential of this new musical.

When you think of women in prison and musicals, of course you naturally think of Kander and Ebb’s Chicago – but now there is a new (and in many aspects more sympathetic) musical on the block focusing on five women locked away in a British prison, sharing the stories of their lives and the crimes that they committed.

Created by Natalia Lewis, Jack Millier and Elin Miles, Black Widows offers five very vivid and strong characters – with each story reflected through a different style of music that ranges from country ballads to big brass numbers. Each song on this nine track album has a strong presence that keeps the listener thoroughly engaged with what they are listening to.

The strength and drama of the piece is showcased automatically through the direct prologue that sets up the story in an engaging way – highlighting each of the women’s stories of their crimes that is really intriguing to listen to – with the words of the narration having been chosen with great care and depth.

This is also later reflected in the lyrics of tracks such as ‘New Life’ which is tinged with sadness and regret that it is difficult not to feel sympathy for the character, while the power and resiliance in the lyrics for ‘So Much More’ shows a real boldness and confidence.

While it has been nicely developed as a one act musical, I can’t help but feel that perhaps there is room for further development in a way that could bring together these women and show the development of their relationships with each other – despite the differences in their story.

This being said, I loved the diversity of the songs – particularly when it allows for some wonderful harmonies from the cast of the album such as heard on ‘So Much More’ that is filled with a wonderful depth of sound. Meanwhile, ‘Why Don’t You Love Me? is a nice nod to a country style with a Dolly Parton vibe about it – filled with yearning and warmth it is a real highlight.

Not every song really works – ‘Garlic’ could use a bit more work to make it have some more punch about it to help it stand out more as could ‘Crack,Smack, Wallop’. This being said – it is still an interesting concept for a musical and would certainly be interesting to see how it would be brought to life on stage.

Overall, this is a bold and confident album that shows potential in the musical and is certainly worth a listen for anyone looking for a new musical to discover.

By Emma Clarendon

The concept album for Black Widows is available to listen to by visiting: https://www.blackwidowsmusical.com/album

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐