Cast Albums Blog
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".
REVIEW: Bandstand - Original Broadway Cast
On the penultimate track of the new cast recording of Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor's Bandstand, the final new Broadway musical of the 2016-2017 season, the marvellous Laura Osnes tears into a furious diatribe against the horrors seen by World War two veterans during their service and the difficulties they face in readjusting to civilian life. The song – "Welcome Home" – is genuinely electrifying, the band (which includes six of the show's actors) is red hot, and Osnes is sensational. It's one of those performances that forces you to sit up and pay attention. If everything else in the score was this good, Bandstand would have won every award going. It isn't, and it didn't, but this is still a rather more enjoyable score than you might guess from some of the show's reviews.
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.