Album Review: 9 to 5 (2009 Original Broadway Cast Recording)

“You got dreams he’ll never take away”

Upstairs at the Gatehouse will soon be hosting the London fringe premiere of 9 to 5 and with a neat serendipity, Megan Hilty is coming over to the UK for a short run of shows at the Hippodrome in September, Hilty having played Doralee – the role made famous by Dolly Parton – in the 2009 Broadway production. Plus, Alison Janney was in the cast too, so how could you not want to fill your life with her would-be future-Dameness via the Original Broadway Cast Recording.

An adaptation of the film by Patricia Resnick from her own screenplay, Dolly Parton’s score combined original songs with a smattering of tracks from her extensive back catalogue. But where, say, Cyndi Lauper managed to adapt her song-writing to the world of musical theatre in Kinky Boots whilst maintaining much of her character, Parton loses a little something in her journey. The songs here are perfectly serviceable but ultimately quite bland, especially shorn of any visuals. Continue reading “Album Review: 9 to 5 (2009 Original Broadway Cast Recording)”

The complete 71st Tony nominations

Best play
A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath
Indecent by Paula Vogel
Oslo by JT Rogers
Sweat by Lynn Nottage

Best musical
Come from Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day the Musical
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Best book of a musical
Come from Away by Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Dear Evan Hansen by Steven Levenson
Groundhog Day the Musical by Danny Rubin
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 by Dave Malloy
Continue reading “The complete 71st Tony nominations”

CD Review: The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012 Broadway Cast Recording)

“I know there must be love that’s yet to be”

Fun and games to be had with this surprisingly effective piece of music hall pastiche. Rupert Holmes’ 1985 musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood is less of a Dickens adaptation that one might initially expect, opting instead to use the source material of Dickens’ unfinished novel as a springboard into something daftly enjoyable, a meta-theatrical murder mystery event with a play-within-a-play and multiple endings which are determined by audience vote. This recording is taken from the 2012 Broadway revival which was mounted by Roundabout Theatre Company.

Holmes’ songwriting thus draws from a raft of old-school influences in harking back to a classic age. There’s a healthy dose of Victoriana in the music hall and a measure of pantomimic broadness mixed in with the Broadway-heavy musical language and it is an enjoyable cast recording to listen to even if you’re not exactly sure what it going on! For completeness, we get the eight possible endings, each with their own song, and this is just one of the aspects that makes this a more full recording than the original – others include the new Act II opener ‘An English Music Hall’ and the revised version of ‘Ceylon’ incorporating ‘A British Subject’, both strong additions. 
And the recording is also blessed with a supremely talented ensemble cast, headed by the incomparable Chita Rivera whose Princess Puffer is a delight (‘The Wages of Sin’ her best number) and a dryly witty Jim Norton as The Chairman. I also enjoyed the performances of Andy Karl and Jessie Mueller as siblings Helena and Neville Landless, paving the way for their leading roles to come (in Groundhog Day and Beautiful/Waitress respectively). I opted not to see the last UK revival, at the Arts Theatre also in 2012 and on this evidence, I might have missed a trick there, so I’ll be sure to catch when it next hits a London stage.

Album Review: Scott Alan Live

“And there it is…”
 
For a composer who hasn’t had a major show on over here, Scott Alan inspires an amazing amount of evangelical joy from his fans. This has come from a series of albums and concerts in which his songwriting has been showcased by a wide-ranging collection of Broadway and West End stars, culminating in a rapturously received residency at the St James Theatre a couple of months ago. I like his work, having previously reviewed a couple of his albums, but I haven’t been as ecstatic as some about it so I thought I’d go back to the ones I hadn’t listened to. 
 
His double album Live offers reworkings of many of his songs and mixes things up further by retaining many of his frequent collaborators but letting them loose on different songs, even switching up genders on some of them. It’s a great move – Natalie Weiss smashes the joyful ‘I’m A Star’, Laura Osnes wraps her delicate voice beautifully around ‘Now’ and Jeremy Jordan is charming as ever on ‘Please Don’t Let Me Go’ and that’s all in the opening five songs. The slightly indulgent length of the album means we don’t always maintain such intense quality over both discs plus bonus tracks.

Continue reading “Album Review: Scott Alan Live”

Album Review: Nice Fighting You: A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 BELOW

“Years of dreams just can’t be wrong” 

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty have enjoyed a prolific writing career stretching over three decades and in celebration of their 30 year working relationship, held a series of concerts at 54 Below which have now been immortalised on their double CD Nice Fighting You: A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 BELOW. The collection looks back at the past, to shows like Ragtime and Seussical but also keeps an eye on the present – their Rocky the Musical is currently playing on Broadway – and the future with forthcoming show Little Dancer being showcased.

With so much material to choose from both in terms of an extensive back catalogue and multiple concert performances thereof, it is perhaps unsurprising that Ahrens and Flaherty opted for the double CD format which allows them to feature well over 30 of their songs, sung by a great array of talented artists. But it also means that it becomes quite the hefty beast, am album aimed at fans rather than the casual listener, something emphasised by the inclusion of spoken interludes from the writers and singers introducing their songs.  Continue reading “Album Review: Nice Fighting You: A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 BELOW”

67th Tony Award nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play 
Tom Hanks – Lucky Guy as Mike McAlary
Nathan Lane – The Nance as Chauncey
Tracy Letts – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as George
David Hyde Pierce – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as Vanya
Tom Sturridge – Orphans as Phillip

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Laurie Metcalf – The Other Place as Juliana Smithton
Amy Morton – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as Martha
Kristine Nielsen – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as Sonia
Holland Taylor – Ann as Ann Richards
Cicely Tyson – The Trip to Bountiful as Miss Carrie Watts

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical 
Bertie Carvel – Matilda the Musical as Miss Trunchbull
Santino Fontana – Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella as Prince Topher
Rob McClure – Chaplin as Charlie Chaplin
Billy Porter – Kinky Boots as Lola
Stark Sands – Kinky Boots as Charlie Price Continue reading “67th Tony Award nominations”

Album Review: Scott Alan – Dreaming Wide Awake

“I have fought, I have cried.
I’ve been broke, I’ve been bruised.
Yet at the end of the day
This life is what I still choose.”

I was recommended this Scott Alan CD, Dreaming Wide Awake, by a reader who like me wasn’t a huge fan of Tim Prottey-Jones’ album which I reviewed last week and claimed that US composers were basically better all round. Whereas that sentiment made me automatically want to not bother, I do love a good recommendation and Scott Alan is one of those composers of whom I’ve heard a fair bit without having actually engaged with his music or any of his shows. Alan is a lyricist and composer who has written a handful of shows but more recently, his output seems to have been channelled into collections of his work on CD: he is now up to his third, of which Dreaming Wide Awake is the first.

I’m not going to get sucked into a US/UK debate here, there’s room in my heart to like all sorts of different things for different occasions, but I do have to say that this is an album which pretty much blew me away from first listen. Opening with the punchily brilliant ‘I’m A Star’ by Eden Espinosa, it is clear that Alan is unafraid of showing emotion in all its colours through his writing. I’m A Star is the kind of song to get pulses racing with its determined dreams of success and one I’m surprised I haven’t heard in a cabaret set (yet). Tracie Thoms’ ‘Let Love Begin’ has a driving tunefulness and there’s a great comic number in the countering viewpoints of ‘At Seventeen’. Continue reading “Album Review: Scott Alan – Dreaming Wide Awake”