It’s time to take a quick tour through the cast recordings, plus a few soundtracks, that were release during 2013, more exactly the ones I listened. At the end you’ll find my Top Five list.
BOMBSHELL – This television soundtrack of SMASH’s musical-within-a-musical is one of the best new original scores written for a musical. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman deliver several terrific songs, strongly sung by Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee. “Let Me Be You Star” is a true winner and so is “Don’t Forget Me”. Personally I also love “At Your Feet” by Bernadette Peters. Without doubt one of the best new scores of 2013.
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY – This new score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman reminded me of better scores like OLIVER, MARY POPPINS, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG or DOCTOR DOLITTLE. None of the songs are catchy but, thanks to different kind of songs, no one can say the score is monotonous, but it’s easily forgettable and sometimes boring.
CINDERELLA – Rodgers & Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA arrived on Broadway and the result is a pleasant cast recording with a cast to die for and great orchestrations. To play this recording is like being taken to an impossible world of melody, fun and magic. It’s not R & H best work, but they really knew how to write for the stage.
DEAREST ENEMY – Although I’m a huge fan of Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart, this isn’t their best work. Anyway it’s nice to finally have a decent and complete recording of this musical, with a little bit too operatic good cast and rich orchestrations. Any score with the likes of “Here in My Arms”, “Bye and Bye”, “Here’s a Kiss” and “Where the Hudson River Flows” has my approval.
DOGFIGHT – I know, this one isn’t for me. But at least I gave it a try. It has good singing by Lindsay Mendez and Derek Klena, but, with exception of “Come Back”, I couldn’t care less for the songs. I’m too much in love with the traditional Broadway sound to enjoy this kind of stuff.
FAR FROM HEAVEN – For this musical adaptation of the movie of the same time title, Michael Korie & Scott Frankel come up with a melodious but uninteresting score. With a few exceptions, it’s not’s very easy to distinguish the songs ones from the others; not even the strong cast is able to turn it into something lively. It’s like this story never needed songs to be alive.
GIANT – I think this Michael John LaChiusa’s score is sometimes melodious, but the songs sound almost all the same, making it boring. At the same time it has an epic quality that made me wish that Rodgers & Hammerstein where still alive. The entire cast is in great shape and I enjoyed “Topsy Turvy”, “My Texas” and “When to Bluff”.
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS – Already a Christmas favorite of mine, this score by Mel Marvin & Timothy Mason it’s highly enjoyable, with tuneful songs and some funny lyrics. The cast sings with gusto and “One of a Kind” is one of the best new songs I heard in 2013.
KINKY BOOTS – Everyone knows I’m old fashioned, specially when it comes to music, so it comes as no surprise that this pop score by Cyndi Lauper wouldn’t be my cup of tea. There’s nothing wrong with the cast, everyone sounds great, but I have a hard time relating to this kind of music. I can understand the excitement of songs like “Sex is in the Heel” or “Everybody Say Yeah”, but they don’t do much to me. I believe this may work better live on stage. Of the entire score I enjoyed the ballad “Hold Me in Your Heart” and “What a Woman Wants”. I wish the score was written by someone like Cy Coleman.
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC – The first time I heard this fabulous score was when I saw this movie, many years ago. By that time I didn’t knew who Stephen Sondheim was but I fell in love with the score and so my love affair with Sondheim began. Of course this isn’t the best rendition of the score and Liz Taylor’s voice is far from perfect, but even so is a beautiful haunting score.
LIZZIE - This “musical” by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt isn’t for someone who, like me, doesn’t enjoy rock music. The cast delivers strong voices and I guess many people will enjoy it, but not me.
MARRY ME A LITTLE – A new recording of this intimate revue with songs by Stephen Sondheim, beautifully sung by Lauren Molina and Jason Tam. A nice way to discover lesser-known songs by Sondheim, sung with talent, humor and love with a simple piano for support.
MEET JOHN DOE – Interesting score by Andrew Gerle and Eddie Sugarman, with more than a couple of good songs and a winning cast. Anyway, I couldn’t stop thinking how it would sound if Kander & Ebb had written the score.
MOTOWN – This one is exactly what it pretends to be, a jukebox of Motown hits sung by a joyful cast. It depends on your tastes in music, if you like this kind of stuff you’re in for a treat. Otherwise this is a nostalgic trip to the past, with more than a couple of contagious numbers.
THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD – I always enjoyed the Original Broadway Cast recording of this Rupert Holmes musical and I still preferred it to this new one. That doesn’t mean this new cast isn’t fine; not only it’s a great cast, but we also get a more complete score. There’s plenty to enjoy here and everyone sounds like they were having a great time.
ONE TOUCH OF VENUS – After more than a decade, this studio cast recording was finally released and it’s a true treasure for musical fans. Kurt Weill & Ogden Nash score never sounded so good and, until now, was never released in its entirety; it even includes cut songs like the beautiful “Love is a Mist”. The cast is simply terrific and I’m never tired of listening to “Speak Low”.
PASSION – Here is a rarity, a score where although the songs sound much alike, never becomes monotonous. Stephen Sondheim wrote another beautiful and haunting score, here sung by a terrific trio of actors: Judy Kuhn, Ryan Silverman and Rebecca Luker. This is one of those scores that grows on you; don’t give up after the first listening! Anyway, I confess I prefer the original Broadway cast with Donna Murphy.
PIPPIN – Patina Miller leads the terrific cast of this new and exciting recording of Stephen Schwartz musical. I confess I was never a huge fan of this score, but it never sounded so good as it sounds here. Sometimes contagious, sometimes magic, it’s an enjoyable recording.
SCANDALOUS – Carolee Carmello gives her all to this kind of pop/godpsell musical. The big problem is the fact that the songs by David Pomeranz, David Friedman & Kathy Lee Gifford sound all the same with just a few exceptions: the bad girls’s “A Girls Gotta Do What’s a Girl’s Gotta Do”, the more musical “Hollywood Aimee” and the romantic “It’s Just You”. There isn’t any great song here and Carmello deserved better; I just wish “I Have a Fire” was a better song.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC – Television Soundtrack of the new production of Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, with Carrie Underwood in the leading role. Her voice seems sometimes a little strange for the material, but she sings well and has a terrific supporting cast helping her. This isn’t the best rendition of the score (my favorite one is the movie soundtrack starring Julie Andrews), but it’s a nice introduction for the new generations.
STEPHEN WARD – I’m not a huge fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber, but in the past he wrote more than a few great songs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any of these in this new score, but no one can blame him for trying something new with this musical, largely influenced by the 60s sound.
TOP FIVE (in preference order):
ONE TOUCH OF VENUS
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD