Cast Albums Blog
REVIEW: Anastasia - Original Broadway Cast
Like any 30-something, I have extremely fond memories of the 1997 animated film Anastasia, and was excited when I learned that it was being updated as a new musical. I was also deeply suspicious, as the movie is so treasured, and holds such a special place in the North American cultural zeitgeist that I was concerned about how it would be adapted. I am delighted to say that this album has abated any fears I may have had, and is excellent.
With music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the show and cast recording contain five of their songs from the 1997 film, as well as twenty new ones, all superbly orchestrated by Doug Besterman. While every song may not be a stand-out, each is extremely well crafted, and a pleasure to listen to.
REVIEW: Lost West End Vintage: London's Forgotten Musicals 1948-1962
From Stage Door Records, another worthwhile curiosity. Lost West End Vintage is a compilation of tracks from British musicals that premiered during what is generally considered the American musical’s “golden age” – that is, between the mid-1940s and the 1970s. These shows almost all predate the ascendance in this country of the Lloyd Webber megamusical, and they have mostly sunk without trace; you’re unlikely to see a revival of Wild Grows the Heather or Expresso Bongo or Cage Me a Peacock anytime soon. That doesn’t mean they don’t contain any worthwhile music, though, and the 52 – yes, 52 – tracks included on this compilation’s two discs include several unappreciated gems. They include some things you’ll listen to once and subsequently skip, of course, but that’s the nature of this kind of album; fortunately, the good here far outweighs the bad, and the best of this recording is very entertaining indeed.
REVIEW: Bubble Boy - Studio Cast
Most albums that we get to review here at Castalbums.org are preservations of major Broadway productions, shows that many of us have gotten to see. It's a nice treat then to be given the recording of Bubble Boy -- a little known musical with a loopy premise -- without any sense of how it plays on stage, for a listen. Based on the 2001 film starring a young Jake Gyllenhaal, the show tells the improbable story of Jimmy Livingston, an autoimmune-deficient young man who has been forced to live his life in a plastic bubble. In more serious hands, this would be the stuff of Dear Evan Hansen teen-angst, but this wacky musical, fashioned by original screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, is a laugh-out-loud romp. The story, which isn't too hard to follow from the songs (and there are a whopping 23 numbers on the album including reprises), follows a fairly well-worn formula: Boy (in a bubble) meets Girl (not in a bubble), Boy (in a bubble) and Girl fall in love. Girl falls for another Boy (not in a bubble). Boy (in a bubble) goes on a journey to stop Girl from marrying Boy #2. Suffice it to say a tidy ending wraps everything up.
REVIEW: The Man in the Moon - Original Cast
As they were making final tweaks to She Loves Me prior to its initial Broadway bow in 1963, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick had another show on the main stem just a couple block away. The songwriting team, who already had a Best Musical Tony and a Pulitzer Prize to their name, lent their talents to a Broadway puppet show created by Bill and Cora Baird, perhaps the best-known puppeteers of the pre-Henson age. (Even if you don’t recognize their names, their work will surely look familiar even today, if only from the “Lonely Goatherd” number in the film version of The Sound of Music.)
The Man in the Moon formed the first act of a special, limited production presented by the Bairds at the Biltmore for 22 performances. Golden Records, purveyor of children’s records, released an original cast recording featuring dialogue, narration, and songs, capturing the voice performances of the Bairds along with a cast including Frank Sullivan, Franz Fazakas, Margery Gray, Gerald Freedman, Eric Carlson, and Rose Marie Jun. Although fondly remembered by those young enough to have been in the target audience for the album’s initial release, it has otherwise largely been forgotten.
REVIEW: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Original Broadway Cast
I love an overture. I lament the fact that most new musicals do not have them. That is why I was so excited when I saw that the original Broadway cast recording of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had one. I actually thought my iPhone had made a mistake when, after only 27 seconds, the next song began. I cannot stress this enough: 27 seconds does not an overture make! My indignation at this aside, the word that kept coming to mind when I listened to this album was "serviceable". This is a good show for families, especially those with young children who are fans of Roald Dahl's stories.
The music, by Marc Shaiman, with lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, is accessible and peppy, but nothing really grabs you. There are none of the catchy yet meaningful songs such as those found in Hairspray, or even my long lost love SMASH. The best songs in the show are those carried over from the 1971 film, penned by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, specifically "Pure Imagination" and "The Candy Man".