Cast Albums Blog

Category Archive:  Review

REVIEW: Stars of David - World Premiere Cast Recording


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On the surface, Stars of David sounds like a cynical cash-grab show: a small-cast revue based on journalist Abigail Pogrebin’s 2005 collection of interviews with prominent Jewish Americans sounds like it was designed to tour the Jewish Community Centers of this country ad infinitum. Whether it was any good or not would have almost no bearing on whether Jewish grandparents would buy tickets by the bushel. So, I was surprised and delighted when I saw the show in its off-Broadway incarnation last year to discover that the show was also entertaining and at times moving. Now, a year later, Yellow Sound Label has released a “World Premiere Recording” featuring the off-Broadway cast (Janet Metz, Alan Schmuckler, Aaron Serotsky, and Donna Vivino) plus three performers from the world-premiere production at the Philadelphia Theater Company, Alex Brightman, Joanna Glushak, and Brad Oscar.


REVIEW: Peter Pan Live! Original Soundtrack of the NBC Television Event


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Broadway Records took a double gamble by releasing the soundtrack to NBC's Peter Pan Live. By releasing a true soundtrack (rather than a pre-recorded cast album, as the previous year's Sound of Music Live did), they passed up any chance to sell the album to those of us curious to get a peek at the broadcast before airdate, and they staked their success on a positive reception of the broadcast itself.

While the television production had its moments, it largely seemed dead on arrival: neither the thrilling spectacle NBC dreamed of, nor the campy disaster hate-watchers hoped for. As the broadcast limped along, I couldn't imagine wanting to revisit this experience on a soundtrack album. I'm glad to report that I was wrong.


REVIEW: Love's Labour's Lost - Original Cast Recording


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When composer/lyricist Michael Friedman and director/librettist Alex Timbers's musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost debuted at New York's Shakespeare in the Park in the summer of 2013, it was met with something of a split response. Fans praised the production's no-holds-barred approach to comedy and catchy, contemporary score performed by a stellar cast including Colin Donnell, Patti Murin, Daniel Breaker, Bryce Pinkham, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Rachel Dratch. Detractors found the humor sophomoric and the dramaturgy questionable. Ironically, the sophomoric humor and questionable dramaturgy (which allowed for more non-sequitors than your average episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus) were two of the things I liked best about the show, which I saw twice during its limited run in Central Park.


REVIEW: Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill


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Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill is one of those shows that feels like it's been around forever, making regular appearances at small venues around the country whenever a local singing actress wants to flex her chops a bit with a show that's pre-sold on the name of its subject, Billie Holiday. In reality, the show debuted in 1986 at the Alliance in Atlanta before coming to New York in a well-received off-Broadway production and has been twice recorded before, in 1997 with Gail Nelson in the title role, and in 1998 with Pamela Isaacs.

I had never given much thought to the play itself, structured as a concert during Holiday's drug-fueled decline, and when it was announced for Broadway with no less than Audra McDonald in the title role, I was frankly surprised she'd bother with the show. But once performances started, it quickly became a hot ticket, and I don't know anyone who's seen her performance and not been thrilled.


REVIEW: Violet and Here Lies Love


Principal among the reasons that many of us still collect cast recordings is the desire to capture the evanescence of musical theater. Indeed, cast recordings can be so much more than just a compendium of songs from a show, but instead can transport the listener deep into the theatrical experience itself by including dialogue and underscoring. With this purpose in mind, I turn our attention to two new recordings which on the surface might appear entirely dissimilar: the 2013 disco musical about Imelda Marcos, Here Lies Love, and the 2014 recording of the Broadway revival of the Jeanine Tesori-Brian Crawley musical Violet. Both shows get handsomely produced double-disc recordings that aim to capture their 100-minute productions in almost their entirety, yet each album offers a different strategy on how to preserve their “in-theater” experience which make for intriguing if slightly uneven listens.