CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: Woman of the Year – Original Broadway Cast

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

woman of the yearThere are certain shows by the giants of musical theater that have lesser reputations. While often these reputations are earned (e.g. late-period Andrew Lloyd Webber), too often scores are unfairly maligned simply because they pale in comparison to the real masterpieces in their writers’ catalog. Women of the Year is unquestionably in the latter category. Kander & Ebb’s 1981 star vehicle for Lauren Bacall is no Cabaret, but believe me, it’s no Stephen Ward either.

Based on the 1942 Tracy/Hepburn film, the musical updates the story to the 1980s, with Bacall as TV star Tess Harding in a rocky relationship with cartoonist Sam Craig, played by Harry Guardino. The score produced two genuine classic songs: the tender ballad “Sometimes a Day Goes By” and the hilarious duet for Bacall and Marilyn Cooper, “The Grass Is Always Greener.” The show nabbed four Tony Awards, for book (Peter Stone), score, Bacall, and Cooper.  Continue reading

CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: Doctor Zhivago – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

Doctor ZhivagoI don’t think any of us expected to hear a cast recording from Doctor Zhivago, a show that had more above-the-title producers than performances on Broadway. But we are living in an improbably generous new golden age of cast recordings, where all but one musical from last season (Holler If Ya Hear Me) were preserved this way, and to my ears, it’s the shortest-lived shows that have benefitted the most.  Continue reading

CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: Pageant – 2014 Off-Broadway Cast

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

pageantWhen Side Show hit Broadway in 1998, I became fascinated with the career of lyricist Bill Russell. I had never heard of him before, but I discovered he somehow went from penning tiny, queer off-Broadway musicals like Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens (music by Janet Hood) and Pageant (music by Albert Evans, lyrics written with Frank Kelly) to working with the composer of Dreamgirls. I wanted to know more, but at the time Elegies was only available as an import and Pageant had never been legally recorded. (An unauthorized album had been made in Australia, but I’ve never seen or heard it.)

Since then, Elegies was made available in the U.S. (and a second, American recording was produced in 2001), and although Pageant popped up at regional theaters all the time, a recording remained elusive. That has finally changed, thanks to an off-Broadway revival and John Yap of Jay Records. Continue reading

CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: The Golden Apple – First Full-Length Recording

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

goldenappleThe Golden Apple is one of those scores that has taken on something of a mythic air, which is entirely appropriate for this Broadway rethinking of The Iliad and The Odyssey through the lens of turn-of-the-century Americana. The original production was an early transfer from off-Broadway, and despite critical enthusiasm, it shuttered within four months. It left behind a frustratingly truncated original cast album, which (to add insult to injury) was out of print for many years. Despite fans’ adoration of this score (music by Jerome Moross, lyrics by John Latouche), the scope of the show (24 named characters plus chorus and full orchestra) has made it difficult to revive or record. (A persistent rumor of Encores! artistic director Jack Viertel‘s dislike of the show has further aggravated fans.) All of which is to say, when PS Classics announced a full-length recording of the show’s recent production at the Lyric Stage of Irving, Texas, with massive cast, expanded chorus, and 36-piece orchestra, a certain segment of the show tunes collecting community let out massive cheers. Continue reading

Medium: Blood, Sex, and Tears – The Queer Theater of Little Shop of Horrors

Originally published on Medium.

I found myself with an unexpected case of “the feels” last night at Little Shop of Horrors at Encores! Off-Center, so I sat down to word-vomit a bit on Tumblr to see if I could make some sense of the show. I received an enthusiastic response, so I thought I would clean my words up a bit and share them here.

Ellen Green and Jake Gyllenhaal in Little Shop of Horrors. Photo: Joan Marcus

Ellen Greene and Jake Gyllenhaal in Little Shop of Horrors. Photo: Joan Marcus

Little Shop feels like a show I’ve known my entire life, but I know that’s not true, because I remember that my first encounter with the show, which like most people my age and younger, was an encounter with the movie. The film premiered in December of 1986, when I was almost nine years old. I loved monster movies but was scared of horror movies, so I think I skipped this one in the cinema until someone could assure me it wasn’t gory. I know my older brother had seen the stage production and loved it — although that might have been later. Memory is funny. I remember him telling me about the end, where vines from the plant descended from the rafters over the entire audience, and I was enrapt with the magic of theater, even though it was only theater of my imagination. Continue reading

Flavorpill: REVIEW: Anime, Gaming & Theater Combine in “Kapow-i GoGo”

Originally published on Flavorpill.

Kapow-i GoGo

Take one part 8-bit RPG, one part serialized anime, add some cardboard props and a dash of comedy, and you might have something resembling Kapow-i GoGo, a thrill-ride of a marathon theater event created by Matt Cox.

An ideal evening out for those of us raised on The Legend of Zelda and Toonami, Kapow-i GoGo started life as a popular series of brief plays at #serials at The Flea, now reconceived into three somewhat stand-alone plays (Kapow-i GoGo Gooo!!!, Kapow-i GoGo Z, and Kapow-i GoGo RETURNS) best experienced in an orgy of back to back to back madcap adventure theater.

Continue reading

CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: Dames at Sea – Original London Cast Recording

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

damesDames at Sea is the quintessential “little show that could,” growing from a sketch to a nightclub show to a proper off-Broadway musical to an international hit that’s spawned multiple cast recordings, a television production, rumors of a forthcoming Broadway revival, and, oh, it helped launch the career of an ingenue by the name of Bernadette Peters. Originally performed with two pianos and percussion, the original off-Broadway cast recording featured sumptuous new orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick.

Ironically, the presence of those gorgeous charts and the unmistakable Peters are two of the best arguments for adding the London Cast Recording to your collection. The London production, which opened a year after its off-Broadway progenitor, features no such breakout performance, enabling the entire ensemble to shine. (Sheila White, who plays the part originated by Peters, does a fine job, but her biggest credit was Brigitta in The Sound of Music.) The London cast recording doesn’t return to the show’s two-pianos-plus-drums orchestrations, but the new charts by Bill Shepherd are closer to the “let’s put on a show” aesthetic of the show. Continue reading

Flavorpill: Athleticism and Aestheticism Combine in “Séquence 8″

Originally published on Flavorpill.

Séquence 8, Russian Bar @ Lionel Montagnier

Séquence 8, Russian Bar @ Lionel Montagnier

At the intersection of dance and athletics, you might find Séquence 8, the “nouveau cirque spectacular” at City Center through April 26. This show from the Montreal-based troupe Les 7 Doigts De La Main (better known in New York as the circus troupe from Pippin and Traces) feels closer to Mark Morris than Ringling Brothers, presenting eight young performers whose skills combine juggling, acrobatics, dance, and even  a bit of singing, beatboxing, trumpet-playing, and comedy. There is no shortage of talent in this group. Continue reading

CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: Jack the Ripper – Original London Cast Album

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

jackIf you ever wondered what Sweeney Todd might have sounded like in the hands of Lionel Bart, you should give Jack The Ripper a spin. The long-lost cast recording — recorded in 1975, but unreleased for 40 years — has finally been given its due by Stage Door Records, and if it’s not exactly an undiscovered gem, it certainly has much to recommend it. Composer Ron Pember names Bart as a primary influence in the liner notes of this release, but that’s evident from the first note of the jaunty opening number, “Saturday Night.” Pember and his co-lyricist/co-bookwriter Denis De Marne chose the music hall as a setting for exploring the infamous murderer, and the festive nature of the setting trumps the dark nature of the story, making for a tuneful if perplexing collection of songs. The lack of a plot summary in the liner notes doesn’t help. Continue reading

CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: The Fortress of Solitude – Original Cast Recording

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

050413I’ve had The Fortress of Solitude cast album on my phone for a week and I can’t stop listening to it. Michael Friedman has given us one of those scores that offers new delights on each visit, brought to life through fantastic performances by Adam Chanler-Berat, Kyle Beltran, Kevin Mambo, André De Shields, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and the rest of the cast. Continue reading