Sunday, November 27, 2016

TALES OF TINSELTOWN: A CD Review

Concept Album Cast – 2016 / Music by Paul Katz and lyrics by Michael Colby
Starring: Christine Bianco, Klea Blackhurst, Nat Chandler, Jake Epstein, Alison Fraser, Harriet Harris, Richard Kind, Tony Yazbeck, Samantha Massell, Nora Menken, Levin Michael Murphy, Ryan Bauer-Walsh
Rate: 7 (from 1 to 10) / Photos by Elizabeth Wolynski

Review: I always have a soft spot for the Hollywood movie musicals of the 30s and in this “movieland musical”, as written by Michael Colby and musicalized by Paul Katz, those magic times come back to life with a bunch of good songs and a perfect cast.

With inspiring orchestrations (I just wish there was a bigger orchestra playing the songs) by Larry Hochman, it begins with a proper “Overture”, something that is missing from many contemporary musicals, and continues with Harriet Harris and company in funny mode with “The Public Wants to Know”, followed by the talented Christina Bianco with a true 30s style tune, “I Belong in Hollywood”. “Let’s Go” and “Keep in Step” could have been written by the likes of Harry Warren.

“Musical Mélange” is the kind of old fashion musical songs that I really enjoy. There’s also a bit of the Nelson Eddy & Jeanette MacDonald operettas (“Someone to Love Me” or “Hunchy”, both sung by Nat Chandler) and the Shirley Temple musicals (“Sounds in the Night” sung by Christina Bianco). No one doubts that Klea Blackhurst can sing and that she sounds just like Ethel Merman; here she shines with “I Can Sing” and “For My Career”. The charming Tony Yazbeck gives his Gene Kelly impersonation with “All Over the Place”. I confess that Alison Fraser’s big number “Jungle Fever” isn’t the most inspiring song of the score, I prefer her “Got to Be Good”. “It’s Mine” would be perfect for Judy Garland

The ballads “All I Dreamed”, “So This is the Movies”, “I’ll Stand by You” and “Stars in My Eyes” sound out of place with their more contemporary pop style, although I like the last two, beautifully sung by Jake Epstein (“I’ll Stand by You”) and Christine Bianco (“Stars in My Eyes”). The country styled “Born to Be Bad” may seem to belong to another musical, but in fact it's an homage to the western musicals of Roy Rogers.

These small problems apart, this in an enjoyable score that easily puts a smile on your face and a hum on your lips. It takes us back to more innocent times, when musicals didn’t need to have a message, they were just made to entertain and this TALES OF TINSELTOWN does just that.


CHARLOTTE SWEET: A CD Review

Concept Off-Broadway Cast – 1982 / Music by Gerald Jay Markoe and lyrics by Michael Colby
Starring: Mara Beckerman, Lynn Eldredge, Jeff Keller, Timothy Landfield, Merle Louise, Michael McCormick, Polly Pen, Christopher Seppe
Rate: 4 (from 1 to 10) / Photos by Elizabeth Wolynski

Review: Before THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD brought the British Music-Hall back to the Broadway stage, this small show did it a few years before Off-Broadway. Now, for the first time, the complete score was finally released (the early 90s CD include only selections of it).

Like they say on the CD booklet, this musical is “an amalgam of musical comedy, music hall, opera, operetta, and melodrama, not to mention the rhymed musicals films of the early 1930s”. Likewise, the music style is reminiscent of the work of Gilbert & Sullivan, of which I was never a big fan. This is one of those scores that I believe could work brilliantly on stage and by listening to the recording the actors were perfectly chosen. But this isn’t my cup of tea.

It begins well, with “At the Music Hall”, and the title song is sweet and funny. Lynn Eldregde leads the company with the entertaining “Quartet Agonistes” and she also has a good time with “Keep It Low”. “Bubbles in Me Bonnet” is deliciously sung by Merle Louise, who also nicely delivers an old fashion ballad, “Good Things Come”. Michael McCormick has a funny time with “Vegetable Reggie”. “It Could Only Happen in the Theatre” is a typical number of these kind of shows. In the title role, Mara Beckerman has a pitchy voice that is perfect for the role, just listen to her “Lonely Canary”.

Both the music by Gerald Jay Markoe and the lyrics by Michael Colby catch the true spirit of the British musical-hall and if you love this kind of stuff you’ll have a lovely time with this recording.





Tuesday, November 15, 2016

SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY

Original Broadway Cast – 1963 / Songs by Naomi Caryl Hirshhorn & Charles Aidman
Starring: Betty Garrett, Joyce Van Patten, Robert Elston, Charles Aidman, Hal Lynch
Rate: ? (from 1 to 10)

Review: This play with music based on Edgar Lee Master’s “collection of short free-form poems” isn’t a musical. So the original cast recording has more talk than music, something that never appeals to me. I know many theater fans like to listen to recorded plays, but I’m not one of them. So, although I listened to this one, I guess that to be fair to it I shouldn’t review it. I’m not the right person to do it.

The songs, practically all sung by Naomi Caryl Hirshhorn, sound too much alike and I guess it has to do with the spirit of the play. I confess I was expecting to hear the great Betty Garret belt a number or two, but this isn’t that kind of show. Some of the songs sound kind of sad and I never cared much for folk music, and I think that’s what these songs are, but it’s possible I’m terribly wrong.

I believe there are other theatre aficionados and collectors who will love to add this recording to their library.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

SHOW MUSIC RELEASES: NOVEMBER & DECEMBER 2016


Here you find a list, as complete as possible, of all the CDs, digital albums, DVDs and Blu-ray regarding stage and movie musicals that that are being released in November and December 2016. The list is in alphabetical order.

THE APPRENTICESHIP OF DUDDY KRAVITZ – Original Canadian Cast recording with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by David Spencer. Featuring Ken James Stewart, George Masswohl, Marie-Pierre de Brienne, Adrian Marchuk, Victor Young, David Coomber, Sam Rosenthal, Michael Rudder, Kristian Truelsen, Albane Chateau, Gab Desmond, Julia Halfyard and Michael Daniel Murphy.


THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY - DVD-R release of the 1949 MGM musical directed by Charles Walters. Starring Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Oscar Levant, Gale Robbins and Billie Burke. Music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Ira Gershwin.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL – Reissue of the 1995 Original Cast Recording with songs by Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens. Starring Walter Charles, Nick Corley, Ken Jennings, Jeff Keller, Joseph Kolinski, Michael Mandell, Robert Westenberg and Emily Skinner.

To read my review click here.


HALF A SIXPENCE – Original 2016 London Cast recording of the new English production of David Heneler’s musical based on H. G. Weel’s novel “Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul”. New songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, Featuring Charlie Stemp.

GYPSY – Blu-ray and DVD release of the West End revival directed by Jonathan Kent and starring Imelda Staunton, Peter Davison. Music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. 



IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER – Blu-ray release of the 195 MGM musical directed by Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Dolores Gray, Dan Dailey and Michael Kidd. Music by André Previn and lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green.



SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY - 1963 Original Broadway Cast Recording of the play with music based on Edgar Lee Masters’ collection of short free-form poems. Music by Naomi Caryl Hirshhorn and Hal Lynch. Starring Betty Garrett, Joyce Van Patten and Robert Elston. 

SWEENEY TODD – Blu-ray release of the 2001 San Francisco concert of the Stephen Sondheim musical, starring George Hearn, Patti LuPone, Neil Patrick Harris, Victoria Clark and Davis Gaines. 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: A CD Review

Original Cast – 1995 / Music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Starring: Walter Charles, Nick Corley, Ken Jennings, Jeff Keller, Joseph Kolinski, Michael Mandell, Robert Westenberg, Andrea Frierson Toney, Joy Hermalyn, Michael X. Martin, Michael Christopher Moore, Bill Nolte, Darcy Pulliam, Emily Skinner, Mary Stout, Gerry Vichi, Theara J. Ward, Christopher Sieber, Natalie Toro, Walter Willison
Rate: 6 (from 1 to 10)

Review: Just in time for Christmas, we have the reissue of the cast recording of Madison Square Garden´s production of the musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic. This big musical played on that avenue for several Christmas, from 1994 through 2003.

The first time I heard this score it didn’t conquer me immediately. But I fall instantly in love with one of the songs, “Abundance and Charity”; this one became one of my favorite Christmas songs and if we close our eyes we can easily imagine Susan Stroman’s choreography (I never saw the show, so I just use my imagination). Alan Menken came up with a very British score and probably this is his most different score, far from his usual pop flavor emotional musical style. There’s good big numbers like “Mr. Fezziwig’s Annual Christmas Ball” or “Christmas Together”. The song “Dancing on Your Grave” sounds like a premonition for Menken’s THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. And of course it has a romantic song, “A Place Called Home”, a nice ballad “The Lights of Long Ago” and a beautiful emotional song, “God Bless Us, Everyone”.

Walter Charles is an excellent Scrooge and the rest of the cast give him strong support. The orchestrations by Michael Starobin and Douglas Besterman keep it alive and we can feel the spirit of Christmas in the end result. So go into your Christmas and enjoy this score!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

BROADWAY SEASON 2015-2016 – THE MUSICALS

On my blog BROADWAY: THE MUSICAL SEASONS I’ve just posted a page with images from all the musicals, new ones and revivals, which opened on Broadway during the 2015-2016 Season; plus the City Center Encores! series.

Some became hits, others closed in a few weeks, but I believe all of them are worthy of celebration.

To visit  that page click here

Sunday, October 23, 2016

SHOW MUSIC RELEASES: OCTOBER 2016


Here you find a list, as complete as possible, of all the CDs, digital albums, DVDs and Blu-ray regarding stage and movie musicals that that are being released in October 2016. The list is in alphabetical order.

LAZARUS – Original New York Theatre Workshop Cast recording of David Bowie's score. Starring Michael C. Hall, Cristin Milioti, Michael Esper, Krystina Alabado, Sophia Anne Caruso, Nicholas Christopher, Lynn Craig, Bobby Moreno, Krista Pioppi, Charlie Pollock and Brynn Williams. 

MADDIE – 20th Anniversary deluxe edition of the 1997 West End based on Jack Finney’s novel. Music by Stephen Keeling and lyrics by Shaun McKenna. Starring Graham Bickley, Summer Rognlie, Kevin Colson and Lynda Baron. It includes three new 2016 recordings performed by Meredith Braun, Dominic Hodson, Moir Leslie and Alister Cameron, plus 25 previously unreleased studio demos of cut songs and alternate versions performed West End stars including John Barrowman, Jacqui Scott, Matt Zimmerman, Lorna Dallas, John Barr, Angela Richards, Hal Fowler, Mary Millar and Teddy Kempner. 12-page booklet with foreword by Kenny Wax.

MISS SAIGON –Blu-ray release of the 25th anniversary performance of the Schönberg and Boublil's musical, recorded live at the Prince Edward Theatre in London. Starring Eva Noblezada, Jon Jon Briones and Hugh Maynard. Features guest appearances from original 1989 cast members Jonathan Pryce, Lea Salonga, Simon Bowman and Claire Moore.

PRETTY FILTHY – Original Cast recording of the musical based on interviews with adult entertainers. Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman (BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON). Featuring Alyse Alan Louis, Luba Mason, Steve Rosen, Marrick Smith, Maria-Christina Oliveras, John Behlmann, Lulu Fall and Jared Zirilli.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW – Original Soundtrack of Fox’s television production of Richard O’Brien’s cult musical starring Laverne Cox, Annaleigh Ashford, Ben Vereen, Christina Milian, Reeve Carney, Adam Lambert, Victoria Justice, Ryan McCartan, Staz Nair and Tim Curry.

SIMPLY HEAVENLY – Reissue of the Original Broadway Cast recording, music by David Martin and Lyrics by Langston Hughes. Starring Claudia McNeil, Melvin Stewart, Anna English, Brownie McGhee, John Boule, Marilyn Berry and Duke Williams. 

To read my review click here.