Cast Albums Blog
REVIEW: The Band's Visit -- Original Broadway Cast
In the entrancing new musical The Band’s Visit by composer/lyricist David Yazbek and librettist Itamar Moses, Dina, the owner of a local Israeli café, sings about musician Umm Kulthum and film star Omar Sharif who, via Egyptian movies, “came floating on a jasmine wind/From the west, from the south/Honey in my ears/Spice in my mouth/Dark and thrilling/Strange and sweet.” Such lush lyrics, evocative and exotic, also perfectly describe the score of this gorgeously understated musical about an Egyptian military band that takes a wrong turn and ends up in the Podunk Israeli town of Bet Hatikvah for the night.
REVIEW: Hamlisch Uncovered
When composer Marvin Hamlisch passed away at age 68, he had already achieved a remarkable career, including being an EGOT winner, that would be the envy of almost any artist. Listening to Hamlisch Uncovered, a collection of lesser-known and cut songs from the composer leaves one, though, with a real sense of loss. If only Hamlisch had lived longer, what else would he have produced? Hamlisch is, of course, best known as the Tony Award-winning composer of A Chorus Line and while Hamlisch's career continued long past the 1974 work, with perhaps the exception of They're Playing Our Song, he never really had a hit on the scale of A Chorus Line. Hamlisch was hardly resting on his laurels though. From serving as conductor for Barbra Streisand to writing for film (he wrote "The Way We Were" and "Nobody Does It Better") Hamlisch was always at work on one project or another. But Broadway was probably where Hamlisch was most at home and in the years following A Chorus Line he produced a number of scores that while chock full of melody and heart, never brought commercial success, most only running for a few months on Broadway.
REVIEW: Legally Bound - Orfeh & Andy Karl Live at Feinstein’s / 54 Below
This live concert album is everything you could possibly want. Witty banter - check. Great songs - check. Delightful couple being adorable - check. Belting - CHECK!! Seriously, I have not enjoyed a live concert album this much in a long time.
For the uninitiated, Orfeh and Andy Karl are not only bona fide Broadway stars, they are also married, and also fantastically funny, charming, and talented. Orfeh, known for Legally Blonde and Saturday Night Fever is a beltress of the highest order, and absolutely brings down the house on this album. Her rendition of "Piece of My Heart" is the stuff of legend. Karl, known for Groundhog Day and Rocky, holds his own on the album, especially when he takes centre stage for the song "Keep on Standing" from Rocky, written by the incredible Ahrens and Flaherty.
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.