Cast Albums Blog

REVIEW: What About Today? Melissa Errico Live at 54 Below

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One of the joys of spending an hour of so with a Broadway star in a cabaret setting is the ability to really get a sense of who they outside of the parts they play. Melissa Errico's new album, What About Today? Live at 54 Below, gives you the sense that Errico is all over the place. Capturing a cabaret act conceived and directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, the disc opens with a track called "Why are actors so nuts?" and that very well could be the title of the album.

The good news is that Errico's brand of nuts has produced a diverse and often thrilling set of songs that might not otherwise find their way onto the same album, from the art-pop of Michel Legrand ("The Summer Knows") and Burt Bacharach ("April Fools") to musical theater classics like "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" (Finian's Rainbow) and "Small World" (Gypsy) to more contemporary fare like "The Heart is Slow to Learn" (Dracula) and even a dip into disco ("Last Dance"). Her voice is as beautiful as ever, equally at home lending warmth to the soprano numbers and character to her belt. The three-piece band under the direction of Tedd Firth provide a strong backbone for the evening, and producer Michael J. Moritz Jr. preserves the intimacy of the 54 Below experience -- just add your own cocktail.

As for the bad news? Well, patter isn't Errico's strong point, and there's a lot of it on this album. She doesn't always trust her material, leading to oddities like half-a-rendition of "It's An Art" from Working, like she hadn't convinced herself as to whether the number was in her act or not.

Still, the album's delights far outweigh the questionable moments (and for those, we have the "skip" button). Errico's "No More" (from Into the Woods) prove the she's as good with a lyric as she is with a melody, and her long-time fans will thrill to finally have a recording of her feisty "Show Me" from My Fair Lady (which Errico starred in on Broadway in 1993).

REVIEW: Cry-Baby: The Musical - Studio Cast

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Cry-Baby was one of the more anticipated musicals of the 2008 Broadway season. Coming on the heels of Hairspray, the show gave a similar treatment to the film John Waters made after the original Hairspray. Hairspray's book writers, Thomas Meehan and Mark O'Donnell, were once again on board, this time teamed with the songwriting team of Adam Schlesinger (best known then as the bassist from Fountains of Wayne, the band that gave us "Stacey's Mom") and David Javerbaum (then executive producer of The Daily Show). Despite a talented cast (full of youthful enthusiasm but no star names to speak of) and a fun rockabilly score, the show failed to find its audience and closed within a couple of months.

REVIEW: John & Jen - 2015 Off-Broadway Cast

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Earlier this year, Andrew Lippa’s John & Jen, his first musical, with lyrics by Tom Greenwald, had a marvelous off-Broadway production at the Clurman Theatre, produced by the Keen Company. Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan starred in this challenging and moving two-hander, more than 20 years after the first production at Goodspeed Opera House. The original production gained a sort of cult following, no doubt thanks to the original cast album that featured Carolee Carmello.

The 2015 production was followed by a new cast recording, and though it has some minor faults and often tries to turn the show into a Broadway spectacle, the stellar voices of Baldwin and Ryan are some of the finest performances recorded from the last theatre season.

REVIEW: Lost West End

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Back in the 90s, record label Varese Sarabande released a series of albums called Unsung Musicals, which were studio recordings of songs from Broadway shows that never got recorded. For many cast album collectors, these CDs were greedily consumed as a way to access some lost treasures from musical theater history.

Now British label Stage Door Records has done something similar with Lost West End: London's Forgotten Musicals, a collection of 20+ tunes from overlooked or quickly closed British musicals from 1976 to 2009. Unlike the Unsung Musicals series which was comprised of studio recordings, Lost West End consists of tracks from sample albums or other recordings that were, for the most part, never commercially released, often showcasing the original performers and full orchestrations. This makes the album a nice collector’s piece as it allows listeners to get a pretty clear sense of what some of these lost moments of British musical theater history were like. (Quick tidbit, many of these short-lived or "flop" shows played at the Piccadilly Theater. Note to self: do not open a musical at the Piccadilly Theater.)

REVIEW: Ann Veronica - Original London Cast

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Timing is not Ann Veronica’s strong point. She was first dreamed up by H. G. Wells for his 1909 novel, which was ahead of its time in its portrait of a young woman seeking to make her own way in the world untethered by the patriarchal restrictions of British society at the time. Consequently, the novel was denounced as a bad influence. Lyricist David Croft had the idea to adapt the novel for the musical stage in the mid-1960s (when literary shows such as Oliver! and Half a Sixpence were all the rage), but circumstances pushed the show’s debut off until 1969. By that time, the toe-tapping score and polite feminism of the story seemed quaint in the shadow of Hair, and the production closed quickly. The show has been subsequently forgotten, save for one 2005 concert staging and now, at long last, the debut of the cast recording on CD.