Cast Albums Blog

REVIEW: Woman of the Year - Original Broadway Cast

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There 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.

REVIEW: Doctor Zhivago - Original Broadway Cast Recording

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I 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.

By most accounts, Doctor Zhivago on stage was a long, confusing bore. I can't say that the recording is any less confusing, but it's far from boring. Its five-way love tangle set against a complicated political war makes Doctor Zhivago feel like the love child of Les Misérables and Aspects of Love, with a splash of Anastasia for good measure. There are a lot of characters, relationships, locations, and historical events to follow. However, the score by composer Lucy Simon and lyricists Michael Korie and Amy Powers also benefits from comparison to those shows, with soaring love ballads, atmospheric choral scene-setting, and pulsing battle numbers keeping things varied and lively. Danny Troob's Disney-esque orchestrations (for an 18-piece ensemble) heighten both the romance and the Russian flavor of the music. (Additional orchestrations were written by Steve Margoshes, Ned Ginsburg, Louis King, and David Siegel.)

REVIEW: Pageant - 2014 Off-Broadway Cast

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When 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.

REVIEW: The Visit - Original Broadway Cast

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When I saw the musical The Visit at the Williamstown Theatre Festival last summer, I must admit I found it a tough sell. Sure, there was talent abounding in the material and on stage (score by John Kander and Fred Ebb! book by Terrence McNally! starring theater legend Chita Rivera!), but the show (based on Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s 1956 play of the same name) is awfully grim. A woman Claire Zachanassian (Chita Rivera) returns to her childhood home to seek revenge on Anton Schell (Roger Rees) the man who, as a young boy, stole her heart but ruined her life. (Spoiler alert, Claire wants Anton killed and in turn will pay the destitute townspeople of Brachen to look the other way.) Between John Doyle’s direction and the set and lighting design by Scott Pask and Japhy Weideman, respectively, The Visit was a decidedly somber chiaroscuro affair that was hard to warm up to, and which might explain its short-lived life on Broadway when it transferred there this spring.

REVIEW: The Golden Apple - First Full-Length Recording

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The 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.