Cast Albums Blog
REVIEW: The View UpStairs - Original Cast
The View UpStairs tells the story of The UpStairs Lounge, a gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans that was the victim of an arson attack in June of 1973, killing 32 people. The attack was not widely covered in the media, and I must admit that I did not know about it until I first read about this musical. Despite the tragic subject matter, composer, lyricist, and book writer Max Vernon has created a glittering world that makes you wish you were a part of it.
The story is told from the perspective of a young fashion designer in the present named Wes who buys the dilapidated building where The UpStairs Lounge used to be. In the show, Wes travels back in time and meets the many characters that populate the Lounge, requiring some major suspension of disbelief on the audience's part.
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: 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: 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: 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.