CD Review: She Loves Me (2016 Broadway Cast Recording)

“Thank you, madam. Please call again. Do call again, madam“

Those outside of Broadway were lucky enough to have the opportunity to see She Loves Me last month as it became the first show there to be livestreamed (here’s my review) but if you missed it, never fear as a cast recording has been released which captures much of what made it an absolute pleasure to watch and to listen to. Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s Fiddler on the Roof may be better known but I’d argue that Roundabout’s revival makes a strong case for this to be the better show.

Orchestrated beautifully by Larry Hochman and played expertly under Paul Gemignani’s musical direction, it’s hard to imagine the show ever having sounded this lovely and fresh. From the thrill of the overture through the entirety of the score which allows pretty much every character to have their moment in the limelight, She Loves Me has a deceptive simplicity that seem disposable but its old-fashioned charms are revealed in all the splendour here, delivered perfectly by an ace cast.

Laura Benanti’s Amalia Balash leads from the front in great style. Showing us the bruised soul under the brash exterior, she combines comedy and pathos in expert measure, whether in the frothier joy of ‘No More Candy’, the warm humour of ‘Vanilla Ice Cream’ or the plaintive romance of ‘Dear Friend’. Matching her in the character stakes is the brilliant Kane Krakowski, whose Ilona is similarly gifted gossamer-light material which is infused with real depth, ‘I Resolve’ and the comic ‘A Trip To The Library’ thus emerge as real highlights too.

Then there’s Zachary Levi soaring through the title track with exuberant joy, Gavin Creel making caddishness oh-so-appealing in ‘Ilona’, Nicholas Barasch’s puppyish Arpad begging us to ‘Try Me’, there really isn’t a weak spot among the ensemble or across the cast recording. The warm glow that comes from the first instance of the refrain up top as customers enter the shop is carried effortlessly through the end and it is an utterly seductive journey. Basically perfect.

Review: She Loves Me, Studio 54 via BroadwayHD

“They all come here just for the mood”

It’s nice to know that you have good karma, sometimes at least, as I came very close to seeing She Loves Me on my last flying visit to Broadway, opting for Waitress instead at the last minute. So it was most gratifying to hear that She Loves Me was to become the first ever Broadway show to be live-streamed on BroadwayHD, following in the footsteps of the hugely successful NTLive enterprise (and that the show would be available for the following seven days on catch-up, making up for the time difference).

The merits (or otherwise) of live-streaming have long been debated and will likely continue to be so for years to come as circular arguments go round and round. But as long as you accept that no, a recording will never be as good as the live thing and yes, it is an amazing thing to have accessibility increased in this way, it seems to me that everyone is a winner, especially with a show on a limited engagement like She Loves Me, which closes at Studio 54 on 10th July. Speaking of which, you’ve only got until 7th July to catch it on BroadwayHD. Continue reading “Review: She Loves Me, Studio 54 via BroadwayHD”

Review: Cabaret, Studio 54

“Outside it is winter. But in here it’s so hot.”

It is 22 years since Sam Mendes debuted his iconic revival of Kander and Ebb’s musical Cabaret with Alan Cumming (re)creating the role of the Emcee and in the hallowed grounds of Studio 54, he is back in that part overseeing a succession of bright young things taking on the equally iconic character of Sally Bowles. Michelle Williams (Dawson’s not Destiny’s) opened up this run and Sienna Miller will step into the shoes next month but it is recent Academy Award nominee Emma Stone was the original choice for this particular revival.

fascinatingly honest interview reveals the reason why she couldn’t open the show but circumstance prevailed to allow her to join the company and ever so pleasingly, right at the moment that I was in town. And she is brilliant in the role, it’s no mean feat putting her own spin on a character that has been so effectively previously immortalised but Stone manages it, finding a real sense of a new, fresh, personality for Sally that is more emotional, fragile even, laying bare all the vulnerability of a young woman aching for a place to belong in a world that is turning its back on her, and so many others. Continue reading “Review: Cabaret, Studio 54”