As it was at the overture and shall be at the exit music, bliss without end. Amen.

Theatre Aficionado at Large

Tag: cast recordings

My Year in Show Music

Last year, I made the conscious decision to keep a log of the albums (cast recordings, movie musical soundtracks, solo albums, live concert recordings, etc) that I listened to in their entirety. I decided to do it again in 2016. Each recording is linked to its own page on castalbums.org (a site I highly recommend for serious collectors of theatre music). An asterisk indicates a recording I listened to for the first time).

1/2 – Bye Bye Birdie [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/2 – The Apple Tree [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/5 – Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 [Original Cast Recording]
1/7 – Ragtime [1996 Toronto Cast Recording]
1/8 – Marin Mazzie: Make Your Own Kind of Music [Live at 54 Below]
1/10 – Kean [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/19 – Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown [Original London Cast Recording]*
1/20 – Hello, Dolly! [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/25 – The Hunchback of Notre Dame [2015 Studio Cast Recording]*
1/27 – Doctor Zhivago [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/28 – Plain and Fancy [Original London Cast Recording]*
1/29 – The Light in the Piazza [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
2/4 – Grease Live! [Television Cast Recording]*
2/4 – Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown [Original London Cast Recording]
2/9 – The Golden Apple [First Full-Length Recording]
2/11 – The King and I [The 2015 Broadway Cast Recording]
2/14 – Robert and Elizabeth [Original London Cast Recording]
2/15 – Cats [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
2/18 – Cole: A Musical Tribute to Cole Porter [Studio Cast Recording]*
2/22 – Tony Yazbeck: The Floor Above Me*
2/23 – The Secret Garden [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
2/23 – The Secret Garden [Original Australian Cast Highlights]
2/23 – The Secret Garden [Original London Cast Recording]
2/27 – First Daughter Suite [Original Cast Recording]*
2/29 – Giant [Original Cast Recording]
3/14 – Regina [1958 NYCO Cast Recording]
3/15 – My Fair Lady [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
3/18 – Fiddler on the Roof [2016 Broadway Cast Recording]*
3/19 – Hamilton [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
3/20 – 110 in the Shade [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
3/23 – She Loves Me [Original London Cast Recording]
3/25 – Gigi [New Broadway Cast Recording]
3/26 – One Man, Two Guvnors [Original London Cast Recording]
3/28 – Mrs. Henderson Presents [Original London Cast Recording]*
3/30 – Kinky Boots [Original London Cast Recording]*
4/1 – The Bridges of Madison County [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
4/5 – The Light in the Piazza [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
4/11 – Eubie! [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
4/12 – Spamalot [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
4/12 – Mary Poppins [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]
4/13 – It Shoulda Been You [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
4/24 – Carnival [Original London Cast Recording]
4/25 – When Everything Was Possible: A Concert with Comments*
4/27 – Carousel [1962 Studio Cast Recording]
4/28 – Gypsy [The 2015 London Cast Recording]
4/29 – Alfred Drake and Roberta Peters Sing the Popular Music of Leonard Bernstein
4/29 – Bright Star [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
5/3 – The Most Happy Fella [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
5/6 – Something Rotten [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
5/10 – Hamilton [Original Broadway Cast Recording – LP Edition]
5/11 – Paint Your Wagon [Encores! Cast Recording]*
5/12 – West Side Story [Original Broadway Cast Recording – LP Edition]
5/16 – Do I Hear a Waltz? [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
5/20 – The Saint of Bleecker Street [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
5/24 – Mame [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
5/25 – The Robber Bridegroom [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
5/26 – On Your Feet! [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
5/26 – She Loves Me [2016 Broadway Cast Recording]*
5/27 – Paint Your Wagon [Encores! Cast Recording]
6/1 – Waitress [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
6/1 – Call Me Madam [Original London Cast Recording]*
6/2 – Paint Your Wagon [Original London Cast Recording]
6/3 – Tuck Everlasting [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
6/3 – Songs from The Lion [Original Cast Recording]*
6/3 – Sara Bareilles: Songs from Waitress*
6/3 – She Loves Me [2016 Broadway Cast Recording]
6/3 – The Color Purple [New Broadway Cast Recording]*
6/4 – The Color Purple [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
6/4 – The Color Purple [New Broadway Cast Recording]
6/9 – On the Twentieth Century [New Broadway Cast Recording]
6/17 – Emily Skinner & Alice Ripley: Unattached [Live at Feinstein’s 54 Below]*
6/29 – The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
7/7 – Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown [Original London Cast Recording]
8/5 – Funny Girl [2016 London Cast Recording]*
8/15 – Patrice Munsel: Unpredictable*
8/21 – Darling of the Day [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
8/24 – Bright Star [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
8/25 – Wonderful Town [1958 Television Cast Recording]
8/26 – Barbra Streisand: Encore Movie Partners Sing Broadway*
8/28 – Rothschild & Sons [Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording]*
8/28 – The Rothschilds [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
8/29 – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers [2015 Studio Cast Recording]
9/1 – South Pacific [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]
9/1 – Meet Marvelous Marilyn Maye
9/1 – Fiddler on the Roof [New London Cast Recording]*
9/2 – Show Boat [1988 Studio Cast Recording]
9/4 – The Wild Party [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
9/4 – The Wild Party [Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording]
9/7 – Liza Minnelli Live at the Olympia in Paris*
9/7 – The King and I [1997 London Studio Cast Recording]*
9/9 – The Robber Bridegroom [2016 Cast Recording]*
9/9 – The Robber Bridegroom [2016 Cast Recording]
9/9 – The Robber Bridegroom [2016 Cast Recording]
9/10 – Little Mary Sunshine [Original London Cast Recording]
9/13 – Sunset Boulevard [American Premiere Recording]
9/17 – Far From Heaven [Original Cast Recording]*
9/20 – The Robber Bridegroom [2016 Cast Recording]
9/21 – Disaster! [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
9/27 – State Fair [Original 1962 Motion Picture Soundtrack]
10/18 – The Apple Tree [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
10/26 – Simply Heavenly [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
10/27 – Sunday in the Park with George [2006 London Cast Recording]
10/28 – Bye Bye Birdie [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
10/28 – Bye Bye Birdie [Original London Cast Recording]
11/2 – The Color Purple [New Broadway Cast Recording]
11/4 – Kristin Chenoweth: The Art of Elegance*
11/11 – Hamilton [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
11/23 – Half a Sixpence [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
11/25 – Ragtime [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
11/27 – Half a Sixpence [The New 2016 London Cast Recording]*
12/2 – Carmen Cusack: If You Knew My Story [Live at 54 Below]*
12/2 – The Hamilton Mixtape*
12/2 – Hairspray: Live! [Original Television Soundtrack]*
12/16 – Falsettos [2016 Broadway Cast Recording]*
12/24 – She Loves Me [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
12/26 – Song of Norway [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]*
12/28 – Irene [1973 Broadway Cast Recording]
12/31 – Bright Star [Original Broadway Cast Recording]

Posted on December 31, 2016 at 7:15 pm.

‘Beautiful’ on LP

81-NypgJeaL._SL1500_ Since the long-playing record went out of vogue, very few contemporary cast recordings have been released on vinyl, the most notable being the original Broadway cast recording of The Drowsy Chaperone and the 2009 revival of Hair. These came courtesy of Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records, who also issued a limited vinyl edition of Beautiful, the hit bio-musical about Carole King currently playing the Sondheim Theatre. These three releases, while conceived as collector’s souvenirs, were in essence leading a return to form, as more musicals seem to be taking part in the current vinyl renaissance.

I’ve never been without a record player in my life, and I listen to LPs whenever I can. My very first cast album was the London My Fair Lady gatefold from Columbia. I was that nerdy child rummaging through boxes at second-hand bookshops and flea markets, picking out the Golden Age records that would start my life-long love of show music. (Spoiler alert: I am still that nerdy child). It’s different from popping on a CD or downloading an album from iTunes. Newer digital technologies are great for convenience, but the act of putting a record on a turntable, lifting a needle to the surface and waiting through those brief pops and crackles for the sound to pour out is a much more visceral, immersive experience. Plus, there’s the added pleasure of looking at the record sleeve and its artwork, allowing for greater appreciation of show logos and designs.

I don’t think Beautiful itself is a particularly great musical, but it is quite entertaining, especially thanks to its leading players. The show chronicles the early life and career of legend Carole King, her collaborator/husband (Gerry Goffin) and friends (songwriting team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil) through the late 50s and 60s, up to her Carnegie Hall debut in 1971. The story is told in a rote fashion, with most of the song cues feeling like elaborate setups for a bizarre game of Name That Tune. The first act spends much of its time showing King and co. at work in the Brill Building, surprising the audience with an “I bet you didn’t know she wrote this one” attitude. The second act focuses on King finding her own voice as a singer-songwriter, though I think the musical ends just as Carole King’s life starts to get really interesting.

What Beautiful had going for it – and this is the most important element of all – was its leading lady Jessie Mueller, who was a sensational doppelgänger for King. I’ve seen Ms. Mueller in almost everything she’s done since arriving in New York (with the exception of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever) and she continues to astonish me. Her voice is one of the modern wonders of contemporary musical theatre, seemingly able to sing any role in any tessitura. Onstage and off, Mueller radiates warmth, charm and pluck. (She’s also my choice for a Broadway revival of Funny Girl. In the meanwhile, I look forward to her return in Waitress).

But Mueller was not headlining a solo show. There’s also the delicious pairing of Spector and Larsen as King’s close friends Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. They are spectacularly warm, funny second bananas who should be headlining a separate Mann-Weil musical. (Billed as “The Carole King Musical,” Beautiful uses just a little too much of their tune-stack). However, Beautiful is even more enjoyable on second viewing. I went back to see it one more time before Mueller departed, and the issues I had were less problematic to me.

While I have my reservations about Beautiful the musical, Beautiful the cast album is a treasure.  Capturing the best of the show (its songs and performances), it plays quite well on disc, though I am more inclined to revisit Mueller, Spector and Larsen’s contributions than the slavish recreations of ’60s pop hits. As someone who hasn’t taken to the jukebox musical trend, I’m surprised how often I listen to the album, especially Mueller’s dynamic performance of the title song.

The idea to release Beautiful on LP came from marketing whiz Rick Miramontez over at O&M. Many of these were given out as voter swag to members of the various awards groups, ostensibly to capitalize on the nostalgia factor of Carole King among Baby Boomers. The vinyl release also went on sale at the theatre and from Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight’s website. It has since been made available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The CD release liner notes (with lyrics) have been beautifully repurposed for the gatefold interior, as well as the individual record sleeves.

Having purchased Beautiful from iTunes, and being quite aware of how it sounded on my iPhone, I was unprepared for the record experience. Mueller’s voice has considerable warmth, but somehow she sounds even warmer here. I stopped what I was doing to hear her sing those first lines of “So Far Away,” and immediately picked up the needle so I could hear it again. Mueller’s voice was made for vinyl. Plus, the LP release comes with a digital download card, so you’ll have the cast recording for your on-the-go needs.

This release was meant as a sort of novelty to cash-in on the show’s nostalgia. However, it seems to have come at a perfect time: sales of vinyls are up (as are sales of turntables). Sh-K-Boom has also released The Last Five Years film soundtrack as a 2-LP. Other musicals (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, School of Rock, If/Then) have released their Broadway cast albums released in the LP format. Word is Hamilton‘s best-selling and brilliant cast recording will be released on vinyl some time in 2016. Plus Masterworks Broadway has teamed up with Analog Spark to reissue some of their classic cast albums. I hope this is an encouraging sign of what’s to come because #yesrecords (and because I require the original Broadway cast recording of The Bridges of Madison County on vinyl).

My Year in Show Music

Last New Year’s Eve, while preparing my annual “Year of Living Cinematically” post, I sat typing with my recently-played iTunes playlist on shuffle. At some point during my transcription, I came to the realization that I’ve been less likely to listen to a full album since I started using an mp3 player. Oftentimes, I would pick a playlist and put it on shuffle (as I call it: my own private radio). For 2015, I made the conscious decision to keep a log of the albums (cast recordings, movie musical soundtracks, solo albums, live concert recordings, etc) that I listened to in their entirety. Each recording is linked to its own page on castalbums.org (a site I recommend for any serious collector of theatre music). An asterisk indicates a recording I listened to for the first time).

1/2: Beautiful [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/2: If/Then [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/3: Two on the Aisle [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/3: The Merry Widow [1958 Sadler’s Wells Opera Cast Recording]
1/7: Anya [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/9: Honeymoon in Vegas [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
1/9: Kiss Me, Kate [New Broadway Cast Recording]
1/10: Hairspray [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/13: Company [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/13: A Little Night Music [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/13: Pacific Overtures [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/13: Merrily We Roll Along [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
1/14: Kiss of the Spider Woman [Original London Cast Recording]
1/16: On the Town [1960 Studio Cast Recording]
1/21: The Merry Widow [1952 Studio Cast Recording]
1/26: The Merry Widow [1978 NYCO Cast Recording]*
2/8: The Bridges of Madison County [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
2/15: The Ethel Merman Disco Album*
2/21: Side Show [Original 2014 Broadway Cast Recording]*
3/2: The Sound of Music [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – 50th Anniversary]
3/9: The Merry Widow [1978 Studio Cast]*
3/14: On the Town [New Broadway Cast Recording]*
3/14: The King and I [Music Theater of Lincoln Center Cast Recording]
3/16: 1776 [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
3/22: Paint Your Wagon [Original London Cast Recording]
4/16: Gypsy [The 2015 London Cast Recording]*
4/25: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
4/26: Matilda [Original Stratford Cast Recording]
5/3: Gypsy [The 2015 London Cast Recording]
5/4: Zorba [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
5/11: Zorba [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
5/14: Barbara Cook: It’s Better With a Band
5/15: Gigi [New Broadway Cast Recording]*
5/19: On the Twentieth Century [New Broadway Cast Recording]*
5/19: Fun Home [Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording]
5/24: Marin Mazzie: Make Your Own Kind of Music [Live at 54 Below]*
5/24: The Last Ship [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
5/24: Mame [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
5/26: The Sound of Music [OMPS New 2-LP Edition]
5/27: An American in Paris [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
5/30: Street Scene [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
5/31: Laura Osnes: Dream a Little Dream [Live at the Cafe Carlyle]
5/31: Laura Osnes: If I Tell You [The Songs of Maury Yeston]*
5/31: Illya Darling [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
6/1: Hallelujah, Baby! [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
6/2: The King and I [The 2015 Broadway Cast Recording]*
6/2: The Golden Apple [First Full-Length Recording]*
6/3: The Golden Apple [First Full-Length Recording]
6/7: Judy Kuhn: Rodgers, Rodgers & Guettel*
6/9: The King and I [The 2015 Broadway Cast Recording]
6/10: The Scottsboro Boys [Original London Cast Recording]*
6/11: Me and Juliet [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
6/15: Hair [The New Broadway Cast Recording – LP Edition]
6/15: Marilyn Maye: The Happiest Sound in Town* [LP]
6/17: Rags [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
6/17: Ragtime [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
6/18: Fifty Million Frenchmen [Studio Cast Recording]*
6/18: High Spirits [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
6/18: High Society [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]
6/19: The Boys from Syracuse [Encores! Cast Recording]
6/21: The King and I [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
6/21: West Side Story [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
6/21: The Most Happy Fella [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
6/22: John & Jen [2015 Off-Broadway Cast Recording]*
6/22: Grab Me a Gondola [Original London Cast Recording]*
6/26: Misia [Studio Cast Recording]*
6/26: Miss Liberty [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
6/26: Irma La Douce [Original London Cast Recording]
6/28: Barbra Streisand: The Second Barbra Streisand Album
6/28: Giant [Original Cast Recording]
6/29: Regina [1958 NYCO Cast Recording]
6/30: The Visit [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
6/30: Oh, What a Lovely War [Original London Cast Recording]*
7/2: The Visit [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
7/2: Little Shop of Horrors [Original Cast Recording]
7/9: The King and I [The 2015 Broadway Cast Recording]
7/11: The Visit [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
7/11: West Side Story [2013 San Francisco Symphony Cast Recording]
7/22: Porgy and Bess [Houston Grand Opera Cast Recording]
7/24: The King and I [The 2015 Broadway Cast Recording]
7/25: Gypsy [The 2015 London Cast Recording]
7/26: The Pajama Game [Original London Cast Recording]
7/28: Cabaret [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
7/29: La Cage Aux Folles [Original Australian Cast Recording]
7/30: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers [2015 London Cast Recording]*
7/30: Carousel [2015 Stratford Cast Recording]*
7/31: Doctor Zhivago [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
8/1: Dames at Sea [Original Cast Recording]
8/2: Nine [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
8/3: South Pacific [1967 Music Theater of Lincoln Center Cast Recording]
8/4: Mary Poppins [Original London Cast Recording]
8/5: Thoroughly Modern Millie [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
8/9: The Music Man [The New Broadway Cast Recording]
8/10: City of Angels [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
8/11: Bells Are Ringing [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
8/11: Bells Are Ringing [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]*
8/15: Sunday in the Park with George [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
8/16: The Bridges of Madison County [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
8/17: Robert and Elizabeth [Original London Cast Recording]
8/19: My Fair Lady [2001 London Cast Recording]
8/22: The King and I [1977 Broadway Revival Cast Recording]
8/24: State Fair [Original 1945 Motion Picture Soundtrack]
8/26: Bend It Like Beckham [Original London Cast Recording]*
8/31: Legally Blonde [Original London Cast Recording]*
9/3: The Baker’s Wife [Original Cast Recording]
9/4: The Sound of Music [Original London Cast Recording]
9/6: On the Town [New Broadway Cast Recording]
9/6: Cyrano [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
9/7: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes [Encores! Cast Recording]
9/9: Wonderful Town [1999 Studio Cast Recording]
9/10: The Girl in Pink Tights [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
9/11: Sweeney Todd [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
9/13: Baby [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
9/16: Prettybelle [1981 Studio Cast Recording]
9/17: Titanic [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
9/19: The Happy Time [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
9/20: Lady, Be Good [Encores! Cast Recording]*
9/21: Hamilton [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
9/22: Hamilton [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
9/22: South Pacific [The New Broadway Cast Recording]
9/23: Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett: Julie and Carol Live at Carnegie Hall*
9/24: A Chorus Line [Original Broadway Cast Recording – 40th Anniversary Celebration]
9/25: Hamilton [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
9/25: Cry-Baby [Original Studio Cast Recording]*
10/1: Victor/Victoria [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
10/1: My Fair Lady [Original London Cast Recording]
10/1: Camelot [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
10/1: Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett: Julie and Carol Live at Lincoln Center*
10/2: Mary Poppins [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]
10/2: A Man of No Importance [Original Cast Recording]
10/6: Hamilton [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
10/6: Pacific Overtures [The New Broadway Cast Recording]*
10/11: Pacific Overtures [English National Opera Cast Recording]*
10/13: Oklahoma! [1979 Broadway Revival Cast Recording]
10/16: Anyone Can Whistle [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
10/16: Mame [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
10/16: Dear World [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
10/16: Gypsy [Original London Cast Recording]
10/19: Robert and Elizabeth [Original London Cast Recording]
10/22: Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli Live at the London Palladium*
10/22: Porgy and Bess [1976 Studio Cast Recording]*
10/22: Miss Saigon [The 2014 London Cast Recording]*
10/28: Maggie May [Original London Cast Recording]*
10/28: Orpheus in the Underworld [1959 Sadler’s Wells Cast Recording]
10/29: Elf [Original London Cast Recording]*
11/13: Melissa Errico: What About Today? [Live at 54 Below]*
11/13: Steven Pasquale: Somethin’ Like Love*
11/18: Hamilton [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
11/28: Gypsy [2015 London Cast Recording]
12/2: The Bridges of Madison County [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
12/9: The Wiz Live! [Original Television Soundtrack]*
12/9: School of Rock [Original Broadway Cast Recording]*
12/14: Be More Chill [Original Cast Recording]*
12/24: Diana Ross Sings Songs from The Wiz*
12/24: She Loves Me [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
12/30: Beautiful [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
12/31: The Visit [Original Broadway Cast Recording]

Posted on December 31, 2015 at 3:08 pm.

‘Matilda’ – Original Broadway Cast Recording

matildaobc

When asked if I thought there would be a Broadway cast recording of Matilda, my response was “Don’t hold your breath.” Not that I didn’t want one; I believe all musicals deserve to be recorded. However, British imports – especially those retaining original West End cast members – rarely get recorded anymore. There was a time when this wasn’t the case, with shows as diverse as Irma La Douce, Oliver!, and Les Miserables getting a new recording on this side of the pond. However, during the last 25 years we’ve seen The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Mamma Mia, Mary Poppins and Billy Elliot come to NY and not get a new recording. So it took me by pleasant surprise when it was announced that Broadway Records and Yellow Sound Label were going to record the Broadway cast.

The Broadway production of Matilda was met with great critical acclaim when it opened in April 2013, and as of this writing I have seen the show four times at the Shubert Theatre. It’s translated well, though quite a bit of the show’s innate Britishness has been softened for American audiences. For me, it’s just slightly less special here than it was in the West End. I’m glad that Bertie Carvel and Lauren Ward were able to repeat their brilliant performances in NY, but I found myself not quite as moved as I was at the Cambridge Theatre. The two West End Matildas I saw gave special performances, with one giving the greatest child performance I’ve ever seen. The original supporting players were also a bit more distinctive; more shades and less outrageous cartoon. I also feel that the revisions composer-lyricist Tim Minchin made to his lyrics, with the exception of those for “Bruce,” diminish his work (eg: “Charlotte Bronte – do not wantee” is a poor substitute for “Harry Potter? What a rotter!”). That said, I still think Matilda is one of the best and brightest musicals of the past few years.

Almost exactly two years after receiving the original Stratford cast recording (*not* London, for the record), I received the jazzed up original Broadway cast recording of Matilda, which was recorded just prior to the departure of Carvel and Ward, who’d been with the show since its world premiere. It’s interesting to compare and contrast their performances on each album, especially to hear how Carvel’s voice has grown more feminine and more distinctive. However, the Stratford recording remains essential if only for Carvel’s hidden track performing Trunchbull’s entire second act diatribe. Ward’s Miss Honey is a performance that feels more lived in, not unlike some of the performances on the 1959 London cast recording of My Fair Lady.

The Broadway cast album boasts punched up orchestrations and vocal arranging (some delicious new harmonies), as well as the first recordings of the new Overture (more of a Prelude, really), “The Chokey Chant,” and “Chalk Writing.” The three bonus tracks include the first three parts of Matilda’s story, though I think the album would be stronger if these underscored monologues were included in their appropriate place in the score, as they build to “I’m Here” in the second act. A deluxe edition containing a cut song performed by Chris Hoch, as well as a quartet version of “Naughty” featuring all four Tony-honored Matildas, is available on iTunes.

I can’t say the new Broadway album is better than the Stratford recording, because I think both are worth having. I just wish there had been an original London cast recording.

Posted on November 7, 2013 at 11:06 pm.

“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” – Encores! Cast Recording

 

My jaw dropped when I started playing the new cast album of Gentlemen Prefer BlondesI know the Jule Styne-Leo Robin score fairly well, and have heard every recording there is (including the revised Lorelei). However, I was not prepared for the wall of glorious sound that came at me. It was like hearing the score for the first time – the detail in the Don Walker orchestrations during the overture, with its jazzy homage to the 1920s. This new recording of the acclaimed Encores! concert (courtesy of Masterworks Broadway) is an eargasm from start to finish, and manages to do something that many recent revival recordings have failed to do: capture the essence of what made the show such a hit onstage.

Megan Hilty is on the fast track to major musical theatre stardom. One of the reasons I stopped watching Smash is that I knew they were setting up her character to fail as Marilyn, which made absolutely no sense to me. While evoking Marilyn, she was her own gorgeous, sexy creation as Lorelei, bring the laughs to “A Little Girl from Little Rock” and providing the audience with a bona fide showstopper in “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” (The night I saw the show, she scored so big with this number that the audience revived its ovation on her entrance into the next scene). Also, the girl can friggin’ sing…

She is almost outdone by the delectable Rachel York, who as Dorothy Shaw leads the biggest production numbers and does so with a joy that was evident from the balcony of the City Center. Her joy is present here on disc; as York tears into “I Love What I’m Doing” and “It’s High Time” you can practically feel her smiling as she sings.

Aaron Lazar sings the ballads beautifully, Stephen Buntrock is delightfully absurd and in exceptional voice in his ridiculous paean to exercise and the benefits of fiber. Clarke Thorell croons Gus Esmond’s number with great ease. Simon Jones and Deborah Rush are also on hand and lend amiable support. The entire ensemble sings well, especially those who were assigned Hugh Martin’s intricate vocal arrangements. The result is just astounding. The first time the ensemble broke into the “Bye Bye Baby harmonies – both at City Center and in my living room – I got full body chills.

Under the baton of Rob Berman (who also co-produced the album) Don Walker’s orchestrations really shine forth. For the first time, the complete original stage score is preserved with all the encores, first and second act finales, dance breaks, and even that insanely catchy “Button Up with Esmond” jingle (the latter was previously only available on the original London cast album which has never been on CD). Of special note is the ten minute “Paris” sequence. It’s superfluous to the book, but quite attractive to hear. The album itself is packaged beautifully with many photographs, synopsis, essays and the complete lyrics.

Finally, I want to send a huge thank you to Margaret Styne, Jule Styne’s widow, who was instrumental in making sure this recording happened.

Evita – New Broadway Cast Recording

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows don’t do much for me. I’ve never really been taken in by his style, and I tend to approach his shows from a mostly academic perspective, pulling the albums from the shelves every year or so for a refresher. The one exception is Evita. The rock opera by Webber and Tim Rice, which made stars of Elaine Paige and Patti LuPone, fascinates me to no end. I think it’s the most musically and dramatically compelling score Webber has ever written for the theatre, with a riveting and often thrilling look at a larger than life and divisive political legend.

Evita is back on Broadway for the first time since the original production closed, in a transfer of the acclaimed 2006 London production directed by Michael Grandage and choreographed by Rob Ashford. I haven’t seen the new smash-hit production yet, but Masterworks Broadway was kind enough to send me the new 2-disc cast album, the first complete recording of the stage score since 1979. And I haven’t stopped listening since I removed the shrink wrap.

As Che, Ricky Martin sings very well but his characterization likes bite and frankly, he sounds as if he’s narrating a school project. Where his character should be filled with anger and dripping with venom, Martin only seems mildly annoyed by Eva’s antics. Perhaps Harold Prince was right in modeling the character after Che Guevara. The always-reliable Michael Cerveris makes Juan Peron, usually a thankless role, the show’s emotional center. Max von Essen is the best Magaldi I’ve ever heard, while Rachel Potter sings a gorgeous “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.”

As for Evita herself, there’s been a lot of controversy over the casting of the Argentinian actress Elena Roger, whose vocal performance has been almost as divisive as the late Argentine First Lady herself. While I obviously cannot offer an opinion on her live performance, I can compare and contrast her singing between the 2006 London album and this new recording. In the intervening years, Ms. Roger’s English and diction have greatly improved, and her singing is stronger and clearer. I suppose I am in a minority, but I love the way she sings the role. Ms. Roger sings Eva with a flexible, steely voice and I love what she puts into the words acting-wise.

The liner notes are filled with color photographs. There no plot synopsis, but director Grandage has written a short essay. The complete lyrics are included. The production has new orchestrations by Lloyd Webber and David Cullen, which are a mixed bag. In certain sections they soar, in others it sounds like karaoke backing tracks. Also: the production includes the Oscar-winning “You Must Love Me” from the 1996 film adaptation.

Ultimately, no matter your opinion of Roger, this is an Evita worth hearing and worth the discussion. Included is a bonus track of Roger singing ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” in Spanish which makes me long to see her in a Spanish language production.

Three from Broadway Records

I have to say I’m really excited by the high number of cast recordings that have emerged this season, from Broadway, off-Broadway and the Encores! season. If rumors of a Leap of Faith cast album are true, we’ll have recorded accounts of all Tony-nominated Best Musicals and Musical Revivals, among others. In the midst of this busy season, a brand label has emerged on the scene. Broadway Records is making its first foray into the cast recording world with three releases of note: two original Broadway cast albums and a star replacement EP. All three are beautifully produced and handsomely packaged, with color photographs. The two full cast albums contain lyrics, synopses and essays from the creators.

Bonnie & Clyde didn’t do much for me in the theatre, but it makes for a surprisingly entertaining listen. I still feel that Wildhorn’s music was the least of that show’s problems. Don Black’s lyrics remain a mixed bag, but that is buoyed by some wonderful performances especially the four principals. Laura Osnes’ performance of “How About a Dance?” is worth the price of the record. Some numbers are duds (including the act two opener “Made in America”), but for the most part the cast album makes a better case for the show than the show itself! In fact, separating the score from that terrible libretto is probably the best way to experience Bonnie & Clyde. Included is a bonus track of the cut song about Clyde’s impotency, “This Never Happened Before” (just be warned, it’s one that cannot be unheard).

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying has ended its run at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, but that shouldn’t stop you from hearing the third and final Finch, Nick Jonas, on this new 5 track EP. I am only familiar with Mr. Jonas from what I had seen of the Les Miserables anniversary concert, where his performance as Marius was strained with pop mannerisms and was rather uncomfortable to watch. However,  his performance as Finch on record is a far cry from that; Jonas is affable and sings delightfully. He sounds much more at ease when not trying to do that straight-tone pop thing they expect of the kids these days. The tracks include “How to Succeed,” “The Company Way” (with Rob Bartlett), “Rosemary” (with Rose Hemingway), “I Believe in You” and “Brotherhood of Man.”

“So give them Lysistrata, and I wish them lots of luck.” So Carmen Bernstein sings in Curtains. She’s not far off the mark, as far as musicalizing Aristophanes’ bawdily enterprising heroine is concerned. There was the 1961 musical The Happiest Girl in the World, which combined Offenbach’s music with Yip Harburg’s lyrics, that lasted 97 performances. Then there was the much-reviled play-with-music adaptation of the play in 1972 starring Melina Mercouri. And while it had some ardent admirers, including Ben Brantley, Lysistrata Jones wasn’t long for the Broadway stage.  I missed seeing Lyssie Jones but the early closing of the show allowed the producers to make this original cast album which will no doubt give this show a cult following post-Broadway. This adaptation involves a perpetually losing college basketball team, and the head cheerleader (the dynamite Patti Murin) withholding sex from the players until they win a game. The score (by Lewis Flinn) is rather tuneful, engaging and at times just fun (and occasionally some of librettist Douglas Carter Beane’s work shines through). Included is a bonus track of the show’s inspirational “Hold On” sung by Jennifer Holliday with the cast.

With these three marvelous releases, I look forward to hearing what Broadway Records has to offer in the future. (Crossing fingers for an EP of Victoria Clark’s Sally in Follies).

“Matilda” – Original Cast Recording

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Every so often, I encounter a new score that captures my ear and imagination, and I find I myself listening to it ad infinitum. There’s something about the way the words and music hit me that I find that I compulsively want to hear the new work again and again. The last time this happened was six years ago on the release of The Light in the Piazza. There have been other scores in the years since that I have greatly admired, but none has bowled me over quite like the original cast album of MatildaI’ve had this original cast recording for a month now, featuring the show’s original Stratford players, and have been listening to it so often that all of its 17 tracks have entered my top 25 playlist on iTunes. To be frank, I haven’t been this excited/thrilled/over-the-moon about a new musical in years, and if my ear is any indicator, Matilda is going to have a long and healthy life on stage.

Matilda had its world premiere at the Royal Shakespeare Company last December, directed by Matthew Warchus, (the man responsible for the smashing revival of The Norman Conquests)Dennis Kelly has written the book with Australian comedian, singer, songwriter Tim Minchin providing both music and lyrics. The choreography is by Peter Darling. The new musical opened to rave reviews at the Courtyard Theatre, where it played a sold out limited engagement, with the Daily Telegraph declaring it the best musical since Billy Elliot. I’ll take it a step further: Matilda contains the best original British score I’ve heard in ages. Now Matilda is poised to take the West End by storm, with performances starting at the Cambridge Theatre on October 25.

The focus here is on Minchin’s music and lyrics, but I must make mention that Kelly has written a superb libretto from Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel. Minchin is new to writing musicals, though he has a background in theatre, but he makes an auspicious debut with his first full musical score. What’s so wondrous about this adaptation is that Mr. Minchin not only serves the book, but captures Dahl’s tone, with its mix of dark humor and understated emotion. Unlike most shows with child protagonists (most of which admittedly tend to send me straight for the insulin), Matilda never becomes cloying or irritating.

Matilda Wormwood is extraordinary, though she doesn’t realize it. She’s 5 going on 50 and in that old soul you find a young girl with more brains, compassion and maturity than most of the adults around her. Her parents (hilariously sung by Paul Kaye and Josie Walker) are self-centered pigs who find her affinity for reading repulsive. She meets a kindred spirit, the lovely Miss Honey – the only adult to recognize Matilda’s prodigious aptitude. However, at the same time Matilda encounters her arch nemesis, the evil headmistress Miss Trunchbull, a formidable bully who terrorizes everyone in her path.

The score is tuneful and memorable with inspired lyrics: character-based, witty and often quite clever. The opening number, “Miracle,” perfectly establishes the tone and adds the brilliant touch of Mrs. Wormwood learning of her pregnancy in the ninth month. “The School Song” is ingeniously structured around the 26 letters of the alphabet. “Bruce” is a rally song for the students as the Trunchbull punishes the portly Bruce Bogtrotter by forcing him to eat an entire chocolate cake. (One of my favorite rhymes: “Bruce/You’ll never again be subject to abuse/for your immense caboose/She’ll call a truce, Bruce/With every swallow you are tightening the noose”).

The Stratford cast utilized three actresses as Matilda: Adrianna Bertola, Josie Griffiths, and Kerry Ingram, all superb. All three are present on the cast album (though if I hadn’t known, I would never have realized it). “Naughty” shows us that Matilda is not going to go down without a fight, brilliantly using literary allusions to make her point. Throughout the musical, Matilda visits with the librarian (Melanie La Barrie) and is able to improvise stories off the top of her head. Each story is a chapter in Miss Honey’s life, though she doesn’t realize it toward the end. Musically, it climaxes with the haunting “I’m Here”. Toward the end of the second act, Matilda sings the touching “Quiet,” a soliloquy cued by a harsh diatribe from Trunchbull, in which she describes her mental escape from the unpleasantness around her.

Matilda’s mother is now obsessed with dance competitions instead of bingo, performing “Loud,” an over the top samba in which Mrs. Wormwood instructs Miss Honey on why it’s better to choose looks over books. During the interval, Mr. Wormwood makes an appearance to apologize for Matilda’s promotion of literacy before launching into the delightful “(All I Know I Learned from) Telly,” with a hilarious diatribe against famed British authors. (“Ian McEwan? Ah, I feel like spewin'”). The antidote to the hilariously appalling parents is Miss Honey, who gets the score’s more plaintive ballads, warmly sung by Lauren Ward. Michael Rouse has double duty as the kind obstetrician in the opening number “Miracle,” and as Mrs. Wormwood’s dance coach/partner Rudolpho.

One of Matilda‘s greatest treasures is British actor Bertie Carvel (Leo Frank in the London Parade) as Agatha Trunchbull, an inspired performance combining pure evil with searing wit. Miss Trunchbull gets two major numbers: “The Hammer” and the stunning “The Smell of Rebellion” in the second act, with a raucous fantasia where she imagines a world without children. In a brilliant stroke, Trunchbull is not only the headmistress, but also the Phys Ed teacher. Though she has the two solos, her presence is felt throughout much of the album. Carvel’s creation is quite possibly the greatest thing to happen to musical theatre villains since Dorothy Loudon played Miss Hannigan in the original Annie. I only hope that when the show makes its inevitable trip to Broadway, he comes with it.

The original cast album is available for digital download on iTunes or as a hard copy from the RSC website. The album contains a 28 page booklet including the lyrics. Also, when you hear the album, don’t stop listening after the finale is finished. There’s a special surprise that must be heard to be believed as it one of the most hilarious things I have ever heard on a cast album.

Three from Masterworks Broadway

The Saint of Bleecker Street, Gian Carlo Menotti’s penultimate Broadway opera, ran for only 92 performances at the Broadway Theater in 1955. However, the piece garnered enough attention to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical. Set in 1954 Little Italy, the devout but sickly Annina sees visions and suffers the stigmata and neighbors flock her to her sick room thinking she can heal them. Annina, aware that her time is limited, wants only to take the veil, but is met with opposition from her atheist brother Michele, who feels that her visions are hallucinations and that the Church is exploiting her. Emotions run high, and this being Menotti, it doesn’t end well for anyone. The cast consists mostly of unknown performers, but the two leads (Gabrielle Ruggiero and David Poleri) are outstanding, offering passionate performances and some truly glorious singing. Gloria Lane (the Secretary in Menotti’s The Consul) is also briefly on hand as Michele’s ill-fated lover, Desideria. Broadway baritones John Reardon and Reid Shelton were also in the cast. This is the first digital release of this particular album, and makes a great case for re-exploration by opera companies.

Not quite so ready for re-exploration, but a fascinating curio nonetheless, is the off-Broadway production of Half-Past Wednesday, a musical adaptation of Grimm’s Rumpelstiltskin. The show, which played 2 performances in 1962 at the Orpheum Theatre, was recorded by Columbia Records. Dom DeLuise leads the cast of five as the King, with Sean Garrison as the Prince, Audre Johnston as Erelda, Robert Fitch as Grandfather and David Winters (an impish delight) as Rumpelstiltskin. The album plays less like a cast album and more like a children’s recording, the kind that used to include a companion book. Much of the dialogue is included to give the album a sense of story, which is especially unusual for Columbia albums of the era (this was produced by Clifford Snyder, not Goddard Lieberson). The songs, by Robert Corley and Nina Jones, are more notable for their clever lyrics than melodies. DeLuise and Fitch get a fun number in “Grandfathers (Ev’ry Baby’s Best Friend).” The album has been pulled from obscurity and is available for the first time since a 1966 reissue. I think it’s telling that in all three issues of the album, Half-Past Wednesday is overshadowed by the big block letters which state “THE NEW MUSICAL VERSION OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN.” It’s better than its two performance run would indicate, especially for the kids.

When most Broadway shows celebrate an anniversary, there is usually a cake and a photo op. Sometimes even a party. However, when the original production of Hair turned 3, the company celebrated the anniversary with an Episcopalian Eucharist at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on May 9, 1971. (The first two anniversaries had been major celebrations in Central Park). Galt McDermot, Hair’s composer, wrote a Mass which was sung by the Cathedral choir. In place of hymns, songs from the score of Hair were interpolated into the afternoon’s service sung by current cast members. Divine Hair/Mass in F is a live recording of excerpts from the festivities, which includes a chance to hear the Dionne of future Tony-winner Delores Hall. Also among this replacement cast were Allan Nicholls and Dale Soules. It’s a unique experience, as the album includes the welcome from Reverend Canon Edward N. West (who would have made a terrific Starkeeper in Carousel), as well as The Collect, The Epistle and the Gospel (each read by a different priest, one of whom is Gerome Ragni’s brother). There’s also something highly entertaining hearing organist Jack W. Jones perform variations of “Aquarius” on the cathedral’s mammoth pipe organ. It’s not an aurally polished recording, but it presents parts of the Mass in F and songs from Hair in an unusual and fascinating setting. Reverend West provided the original liner notes, which make for a fascinating read.

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Walking Among My Yesterdays

2016

2/11 - The King and I

2/12 - Manon Lescaut (Met Opera)

2/14 - Cabin in the Sky (Encores!)

2/16 - Maria Stuarda (Met Opera)

2/19 - She Loves Me (first preview)

2/21 - Translations (Oxford Arts Space)

2/22 - The Secret Garden (MCP Concert)

2/28 - Anna Netrebko in Recital (Met Opera)

2/28 - Kate Baldwin & Friends: Welcome to My Party (Sheen Center)

3/9 - She Loves Me

3/11 - Noises Off

3/21 - Sondheimas (54 Below)

4/3 - 1776 (Encores!)

4/4 - The Light in the Piazza (10th Anniversary Reunion Concert)

4/25 - White Rabbit, Red Rabbit

4/28 - Dido and Aeneas (City Center)

5/15 - Do I Hear a Waltz? (City Center Encores!)

5/25 - The Robber Bridegroom

6/3 - The Color Purple

6/8 - Bright Star

6/13 - Lettice and Lovage (Acting Company Benefit)

6/26 - The King and I

7/23 - Shuffle Along

10/24 - Sunday in the Park with George (City Center Encores! Gala)

10/29 - Kelli O'Hara at Carnegie Hall

11/9 - Guillaume Tell (Met Opera)

11/23 - Half a Sixpence (West End)

11/24 - Ragtime (Charing Cross Theatre)

11/25 - She Loves Me (Menier Chocolate Factory)

11/28 - Ragtime (Charing Cross Theatre)

11/29 - She Loves Me (Menier Chocolate Factory)

12/12 - Kiss Me, Kate (Roundabout Gala)

12/14 - In Transit

Walking Among My Yesterdays

2015

1/1 - Beautiful

1/8 - Honeymoon in Vegas

1/12 - A Good Thing Going: The Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince Collaboration (92nd Street Y)

1/15 - On the Town

1/25 - Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Paper Mill Playhouse, opening night)

1/28 - The Merry Widow (Met Opera)

1/30 - The Elephant Man

2/6 - Lady, Be Good! (Encores!)

2/13 - The Screen (Taksu Theatre Company)

2/19 - You Can't Take It With You

2/27 - The Lion

3/1 - John and Jen

3/3 - Craig Ferguson: Hot & Grumpy Tour

3/8 - The Audience (opening night)

3/12 - The King and I (first preview)

3/17 - Hand to God

3/21 - Sondheimas (54 Below)

3/22 - Paint Your Wagon (Encores!)

3/25 - Cabaret

3/26 - The Visit (first preview)

4/1 - Wolf Hall, Part 1

4/1 - Wolf Hall, Part 2

4/8 - Gigi (opening night)

4/9 - Rhiannon Giddens at Town Hall

4/21 - Gypsy (West End)

4/22 - Wicked (West End)

4/22 - The Audience (West End)

4/23 - The Hard Problem (National Theatre)

4/24 - Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (West End)

4/25 - Buyer & Cellar (Menier Chocolate Factory)

4/25 - Matilda (West End)

4/27 - Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)

4/28 - Follies (Royal Albert Hall)

4/28 - Gypsy (West End)

5/10 - Zorba (Encores!)

5/26 - The Visit

6/2 - On the Twentieth Century

6/9 - The King and I

6/14 - The Visit

7/2 - Little Shop of Horrors (Encores!)

9/21 - Hollywood Arms (Merkin Hall Reading)

10/4 - Dames at Sea

10/14 - King Charles III

10/16 - The Pirates of Penzance (Collegiate Chorale)

10/27 - Spring Awakening

11/2 - Kate Baldwin: Sing Pretty and Don't Fall Down (Keen Company Benefit)

11/17 - Songbird

11/25 - Gypsy (West End)

11/28 - Gypsy (West End, closing)

11/30 - The Winter's Tale (West End)

12/1 - Kinky Boots (West End)

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