News: Seth Rudetzy’s Vote-a-thon has quite the line up

Join Seth and James as Stars In The House hosts an Election Day Vote-A-Thon featuring Iain Armitage, Colleen Ballinger, Laura Benanti, Annette Bening, Stephanie J. Block, Brenda Braxton, Betty Buckley, Laura Bell Bundy, Andréa Burns, Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway, Tom Cavanagh, Michael Cerveris, Will Chase, Javier Colon, Gavin Creel, Marcia Cross, Charlotte d’Amboise, Darius DeHaas, Dana Delany, Colin Donnell, Jill Eikenberry, Melissa Errico, Victor Garber, Peri Gilpin, Josh Groban, Sean Hayes, Marilu Henner, Megan Hilty, Carly Hughes, Jeremy Jordan, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Judy Kuhn, Anika Larsen, Laura Leighton, Beth Malone, Melissa Manchester, Terrence Mann, Andrea Martin, Michael McElroy, Lindsay Mendez, Laurie Metcalf, Ingrid Michaelson, Lisa Mordente, Jessie Mueller, Patti Murin, Julia Murney, Kelli O’Hara, Karen Olivo, Adam Pascal, Lauren Patten, Christine Pedi, Rosie Perez, Anthony Rapp, Caroline Rhea, Alice Ripley, Chita Rivera, Jenna Russell, Lea Salonga, Glenn Scarpelli, Marc Shaiman, Martin Short, Elizabeth Stanley, Ben Stiller, Michael Tucker, Jenna Ushkowitz, Vanessa Williams, Schele Williams, Marissa Winokur, BD Wong, Tony Yazbeck and Bellamy Young.

Broadway Album Reviews: The New Yorkers / Kiss Me, Kate! / Beetlejuice

I tackle a trio of  Broadway cast recordings in the shape of Cole Porter’s The New Yorkers, Kiss Me, Kate! and Beetlejuice 

“Most gentlemen can’t be profound”

As it only played a handful of performances, the release of Cole Porter’s The New Yorkers (2017 Encores! Cast Recording) is a welcome chance to revisit this rarely seen musical. The recording is certainly aided by the presence of such musical theatre stalwarts as Scarlett Strallen and Tam Mutu (scintillating together on ‘Where Have You Been?’), the revelation for me is jazz singer Cyrille Aimée, who delivers a slinkily devastating rendition of ‘Love for Sale’ that makes it feel like the song was written for her.

Photo © Caitlin Ochs

Aside from the songs written by Jimmy Durante (his comic stylings at their best on Act 1 closer ‘Wood’ delivered with panache by Kevin Chamberlin), the prevailing aesthetic is one of classic Cole Porter elegance, Rob Berman’s musical direction finding just the right level of sparkling verve to blow off any lingering cobwebs and infuse real life into the material. Ruth Williamson’s witty ‘The Physician’, Mylinda Hull’s just-as-funny ‘The Great Indoors’, Strallen leading the ecstatic finale ‘I Happen to Like New York’…the pleasures here abound.

Sticking with the glorious Cole Porter, and who wouldn’t!, this year has also seen the release of Kiss Me, Kate! (2019 Broadway Cast Recording). It’s a show that I have a little difficulty with, never having seen a production that managed to sufficiently square its period gender dynamics with (my) contemporary sensibilities. But there’s no denying a songbook that contains the likes of ‘Too Darn Hot’, ‘So In Love and ‘Always True To You In My Fashion’.

Photo © Joan Marcus

And when you have the likes of Kelli O’Hara and Will Chase singing them, you’re in the territory of dreamily good. Whether together on the oom-pah-pah of ‘Wunderbar’ or separately on their respective renditions of ‘So in Love’, they’re both exceptionally good and utterly listenable. Also great value for money are ‘B’ couple Stephanie Styles and Corbin Bleu, pulling focus brilliantly wherever they pop up.

And last but not least, even if Mr Porter isn’t involved here, we have Beetlejuice (Original Broadway Cast Recording). From its opening minutes, (“Holy crap! A ballad already?”), it is clear that there’s a properly anarchic spirit at play here and Eddie Perfect’s score, led by a highly charismatic Alex Brightman who clearly is having a ball as he repeatedly breaks through the fourth wall (if there is one when you’re listening…?)

Photo © Matthew Murphy

‘The Whole “Being Dead” Thing is a genius opening number, prologue aside, and sets the tone for the Perfect’s pop-rock tunes, several of which feel like they have the potential to earworm their way into your brain (the refrain of ‘Fright of Their Lives is currently stuck in mine). Supported by vibrant work from Kerry Butler and Rob McClure and a cleverly sung performance from Sophia Anne Caruso as the Winona-waif Lydia, if Beetlejuice struggles to find a new home on Broadway then I’ll happily welcome it into the West End!

Album Reviews: Love on a Summer Afternoon / The Maury Yeston Songbook / There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates

This trio of album reviews covers Love on a Summer Afternoon: Songs of Sam Davis, The Maury Yeston Songbook and There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates

“You don’t know what you do to me”

There’s something of a deliciously old-school feel about Love on a Summer Afternoon: Songs of Sam Davis, these vignettes of song that recall even Noël Coward in their ability to capture mood and tone as well as telling a damn good story. David Hyde Pierce’s ‘Goodbye to Boston’ is probably the best, most heart-breaking example, Gavin Creel’s ‘Greenwich Time’ coming a close second. There’s levity and humour too, ensuring the collection doesn’t become too downbeat, but there’s definitely a musical and lyrical gift here that deserves to be more widely known. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Love on a Summer Afternoon / The Maury Yeston Songbook / There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates”

Album Reviews: Jonathan Reid Gealt – Whatever I Want It To Be / This Ordinary Thursday / Among Friends – The Words and Music of Richard Kates

This trio of album reviews spans the decades with Jonathan Reid Gealt – Whatever I Want It To Be, This Ordinary Thursday and Among Friends – The Words and Music of Richard Kates

“Nothing worth doing will ever come easy”

There’s something irrepressibly catchy about the music of Jonathan Reid Gealt as evidenced on this album Whatever I Want It To Be. From the cracking one-two of the driving pop of the title track sung with exciting energy by Jane Monheit and Alysha Umphress and the swinging delights of Loren Allred, Natalie Weiss and Luke Edgemon on the adorable ‘Boy Crazy’ to the more restrained but no less deeply felt emotion of Joshua Henry on ‘Let Me Try’ or Laura Osnes on the shimmeringly lovely ‘Lullaby’, this is some top-notch songwriting. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Jonathan Reid Gealt – Whatever I Want It To Be / This Ordinary Thursday / Among Friends – The Words and Music of Richard Kates”

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.

CD Review: Thirteen Stories Down – The Songs of Jonathan Reid Gealt (2011)

“If you wanted me to, I’d take a trip to the sticks, and tie her up in the back of a van”
 
As you can see from the release date, Thirteen Stories Down – The Songs of Jonathan Reid Gealt isn’t a particularly new album but it is one that I’ve had waiting on my ‘to listen’ list for a long time. Produced by Sh-K-Boom, Gealt is a New York composer who has been bubbling under for a while now and as is the way of these things, opted to put out his debut album by calling some of his nearest and dearest Broadway pals to showcase his work.
 
And on this evidence it’s quite the body of work. Gealt feels like a natural song-writer, connecting emotion effortlessly to his music which puts him in good stead for the world of musical theatre and there are some compelling moments here. Adam Chanler-Berat’s ‘I Won’t Have to Anymore’ is a gorgeously moving tale of a young gay lad escaping an abusive home, Bridie Carroll’s ‘Expectations of a Man’ ought to be a lesbian anthem by now and Lauren Kennedy’s wry ‘Alex…You’re Fine!’ works well.

Continue reading “CD Review: Thirteen Stories Down – The Songs of Jonathan Reid Gealt (2011)”

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”

Nominations for 2012-2013 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Ayad Akhtar, Disgraced
Paul Downs Colaizzo, Really Really
Joshua Harmon, Bad Jews
Samuel D. Hunter, The Whale
Aaron Posner, My Name Is Asher Lev

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Bertie Carvel, Matilda the Musical
Santino Fontana, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Rob McClure, Chaplin: The Musical
Billy Porter, Kinky Boots
Matthew James Thomas, Pippin
Continue reading “Nominations for 2012-2013 Outer Critics Circle Awards”