Studio Cast – 2016 / Music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Starring: Michael Arden, Patrick Page, Ciara Renée, Andrew Samonsky, Erik Liberman, Jeremy Stolle, William Michals and Neal Mayer
Rate: 8 (from 1 to 10) / Photos by Matthew Murphy
Review: This is probably Alan Menken’s most dramatic score. Originally written for the Disney 1996 animated movie, the stage adaptation premiered in 1999 in Berlin and only in 2013 had the first English production. Recently, it was staged at the Paper Mill Playhouse and there was talk of a future Broadway production, but it was cancelled. Even so, someone thought that the stage score should be recorded and now we have this studio cast recording featuring the lead cast of the Paper Mill Playhouse.
The result is a must for Alan Menken’s fans, beautifully sung by a strong cast. In the leading role Michael Arden delivers the emotional “Out There” (I still prefer Jason Danieley’s version), this song is one of the most beautiful songs ever written by Menken, with perfect lyrics by Stephen Schwartz; he also sings “Heaven’s Light”, another terrific song, much stronger here than in the movie. As Esmeralda, Ciara Renée gives us a great rendition of the pop ballad “God Help the Outcasts”. With Arden they sing “Top of the World”, one of the new songs that blends perfectly into the score and the same can be said about “In a Place of Miracles” and “Someday” (Celine Dion would like to sing this one). In the role of Frollo, the bad guy, Patrick Page sounds menacing in the dark “Hellfire”.
I miss “A Guy Like You”, a very entertaining song that was cut from the stage production. In fact the entire stage score is very serious, the only light moment is the “Topsy Turvy” number where Erik Liberman joyfully leads the cast.
Alan Menken is probably the most melodic of the contemporary composers and this is one of his most accomplished works. A sure bet for unpretentious musical lovers!