Cast Albums Blog
REVIEW: Blondel - Original London Cast
Tim Rice’s 1983 musical Blondel is a fascinating show. Not everything in it works, but throughout Rice’s career there’s been an obvious, yawning chasm between the two different sides of his personality as a lyricist: the downbeat, somewhat self-absorbed small-R romanticism of Chess and Aida, and the slightly glib, rather archly anachronistic prep-school humour that underpins Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and much of his work on The Lion King. The original London production in 1983 was a modest success, but the cast recording has long been out of print. It’s now being reissued by the invaluable Stage Door Records, and it’s well worth a listen: you may well form the impression from it that the show is an unworkable mess, and the writing badly short-changes the two leads, but it also contains some of Rice’s funniest work, and some of the late Stephen Oliver’s music is glorious.
REVIEW: War Paint - Original Broadway Cast
War Paint has a pedigree that most Broadway shows can only dream of — and yet I am disappointed to report that the Original Broadway Cast recording is uneven, and at times laughable (and not in the good way). That being said, there are a few shining moments, mostly thanks to the show's leading ladies Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole.
Ebersole and LuPone play cosmetic entrepreneurs Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein respectively, and do so with aplomb. The very real historical rivalry between these titans of beauty gives both actresses an abundance of material to draw on, and they don't skimp on the delivery.
REVIEW: Dreamgirls - Original London Cast
It's hard to believe that it's taken almost thirty-five years for Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen's dazzling Dreamgirls to be staged in London. It's also, perhaps, a little surprising that it's taken six months for Casey Nicholaw's UK premiere production to yield a cast recording, given that it opened to mostly very strong reviews and has been doing well at the box-office – particularly since neither the Broadway cast album nor the much more complete concert recording from 2001 is entirely satisfactory. That's unfortunate, because this is one of the great late-20th-Century theatre scores; in telling the story of the tempestuous rise of a Motown-style 60s girl group, composer Henry Krieger offers a whistle-stop tour through twenty years of (black) popular music. Krieger continually blurs the line between recitative and standalone arias so that the sung scenes bleed imperceptibly into the score's big takeaway hits; three and a half decades after it first premiered, the brilliance with which Krieger manipulates straight-from-the-radio pop, soul, r&b, and funk into a genuinely theatrical pop opera remains more or less unparalleled.
REVIEW: Emily Skinner & Alice Ripley: Unattached - Live at Feinstein's/54 Below
After nearly twenty years of working together, the tremendously talented Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley reunited at Feinstein's/54 Below to remind us all of just how sensational these two are when they hit the stage as a pair. If you are not familiar with the rich performance history and friendship of these two women, I suggest that you take the time to read Jennifer Ashley Tepper's liner notes before listening to the album. I also strongly suggest you familiarize yourself with Side Show, the production that formed the nucleus of the Skinner/Ripley sisterhood of the matching dresses—not because you need to in order to enjoy Unattached, but if for no other reason than it is a fantastic show.
Their new recording, Unattached, opens with Side Show's anthem of sisterhood, "I Will Never Leave You" complete with the women in matching ensembles, setting off a comedic sartorial subplot that continues for the rest of the album. After some amusing banter reminiscent of their marvellous 2006 album Raw at Town Hall, the onstage sisters delight us with a medley of songs about friendship including songs from Gypsy, and DuBarry Was A Lady, and I defy you not to wish you could join in with them, or at the very least have a drink with these two dames. The amazing thing about Skinner and Ripley is that they can make you laugh and feel like you are at a party, and in the next moment destroy you with a raw and poignant torch song.
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