CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: Nice Fighting You: A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 Below

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.


Nice Fighting You

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty have the kind of versatility that makes it hard to consider their output as one body of work. Do the Caribbean rhythms of Once On This Island have anything in common with the Americana of Ragtime or the soft rock of Rocky? This new release on Broadway Records argues not only that they do, but that each of these scores and the rest of the Ahrens and Flaherty catalog bear revisiting.

Recorded live over the course of three nights at 54 Below, the New York City nightclub in the basement of Studio 54, Nice Fighting You offers 36 of the duo’s songs performed by a starry cast of Broadway talent, many of whom have (or, in one case, will) played these roles in original productions and Broadway revivals. Your favorites are all here, sounding their best: Liz Callaway revisiting “Journey to the Past,” which she introduced in the film Anastasia, Mary Testa proving she can belt “Rita’s Confession” and “Fancy Meeting You Here” from Lucky Stiff as thrillingly as she did in 1988, and Marin Mazzie proving that “Goodbye, My Love” and “Back to Before” work as well in a tiny cabaret as they did in the gigantic original production of Ragtime. Kevin Chamberlin‘s gentle reading of “Solla Sollew” from Seussical may leave you wondering how that show could have possibly flopped. And Jeremy Jordan‘s introduction of “Dancing Still,” from the upcoming Little Dancer may compel you to research tickets to Washington, DC, where the show will have its first production at the Kennedy Center this fall.

That new song isn’t the only surprise on the album. Continue reading

Talkin’ Broadway: Book Review – Newsies: Stories of the Unlikely Broadway Hit

Originally published on TalkinBroadway.com.

Newsies: Stories of the Unlikely Broadway HitThere’s an entire genre of books detailing the “making of” Broadway musicals from idea to opening night, and it’s not hard to understand why. Few musicals spring forth fully formed from the minds of their creators, no matter how perfect the final product. The collaborative nature of theater, and musical theater in particular, ensures that the birthing process involves disparate artists hoping to merge their individual visions into one production, and their individual personalities into a team. When the unified vision, or the team, fails to coalesce, you may end up with a Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark situation, where the creative differences and the backstabbing combined to make a narrative more interesting than the show itself. But as Newsies: Stories of the Unlikely Broadway Hit demonstrates, even a relatively smooth creative process can make for a good read. Taking the form of an oral history, including diverse voices from the property’s history brought together by editor (and Newsies dramaturg) Ken Cerniglia, this new addition to the genre makes an entertaining and informative read, whether you’re a “Fansie” or not.

If the word “Fansie”—that’s what Newsies fandom has dubbed itself—causes you to make involuntary gagging noises, don’t worry. Although this book might look at first glance like an elaborate souvenir program pandering to teenage girls, the “Fansie” content is limited to a few interstitial pages of fan-submitted photos and quotes about how the film or the show affected their lives. Well, that’s only half true, for one of the biggest revelations of the book is how many members of the team that brought Newsies to Broadway, from management to designers to (especially) the dancers, were inspired by the original film to pursue careers in the arts. Continue reading