Twenty years ago the musical Maddie premiered at the Salisbury Playhouse, and following enthusiastic reviews it transferred to the Lyric Theatre in the West End a year later. But 1997 was a strange year for musicals – Martin Guerre floundered at the Prince Edward, and it wasn’t until November’s opening of Chicago that a musical smash hit was born that year. Maddie was one of several shows that year – Romance Romance and The Goodbye Girl included – to open and close very quickly.

But Stephen Keeling, Shaun McKenna and Steven Dexter’s show was recorded and released on CD at the time and has now been rereleased as part of a 2-CD 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition London Cast Album by Stage Door Records (STAGE 9047). Those of us (like me) who bought the original CD and regretted not catching the show in its all-too-short run, can join newcomers to the piece in not only enjoying the luxurious melodies of the original album but also discovering some long-hidden gems that are either cut songs or alternate versions of numbers that did make it into the show, taken from studio demos made between 1990 and 1997. It’s a musical theatre completist’s dream!

Based on the Jack Finney novel Marion’s Wall (later turned into the fantasy film Maxie with Glenn Close), Maddie enjoys the kind of zany, funny yet poignant story that is best portrayed in musical theatre. Maddie herself is a very outgoing female ghost – a budding actress, singer and dancer from the 1920s whose life was tragically cut short when on the brink of stardom. When young couple Jan and Nick move into her old apartment (still owned by her lover Al, now a retired vaudeville pianist) in San Francisco in 1981, Maddie possesses Jan in order to try to fulfil her destiny. All sorts of comic mayhem ensues.

This 2-CD set includes some truly hummable songs from the original cast recording that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since reacquainting myself with Stephen Keeling’s music and Shaun McKenna’s lyrics. Songs such as ‘Star’ by the American actress Summer Rognlie (in the dual role of Maddie and Jan) who has a megawatt voice that would surely light up any stage. Playing opposite her, the always-dependable West End actor Graham Bickley is particularly strong in his reflective solo ‘Afraid’ and joins Rognlie for the fun duet ‘Easy’. As their landlord, Kevin Colson also has some quality duets with Rognlie as his former love, while Lynda Baron is hilarious as Cordelia Van Arc, the wealthy patron of the museum where Nick works as a curator, whom Maddie also possesses briefly.

The second CD in this must-have set for musical fans contains songs from studio demos. Listening to these is proof that a show is never written, but rewritten! But these are not only interesting from the point of view of the show’s development, but also because they include numbers from such musical theatre luminaries as the much-missed Mary Millar, along with Lorna Dallas and Jacqui Scott. John Barrowman – working primarily in musical theatre in those days – joins Scott for several big numbers too.

So after twenty years, Maddie is back – at least on CD. However, with three exciting new tracks recorded earlier this year also featured in Stage Door Records’ 2-CD set from a recent rewrite of the show, it surely will only be a matter of time before Maddie is back on stage. Next time I won’t miss it!