The BWYinCLE Series is Announced!

IMG_5408Last night the KeyBank Broadway Series was announced is a surprisingly fun and informative evening. I attended with my chorus buddy Patrick and our excitment in this picture was both genuine and shared by the rest of the capacity crowd in the Connor Palace (which seats 2,800). The announcement of each show was accompanied by some enthusiastic discussion between series producer Gina Vernaci and local newscaster Natalie Herbick. This patter was often joined by a special guest star and/or live musical performance. My thoughts on each announced show – as well as notes on the presentation specials guests and performances – is below.

For the record, I correctly predicted 5 out 7 shows (and one more was a prediction until I changed my mind on February 21st). Correctly predicted shows will be GREEN. Incorrectly predicted shows will be in RED.

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Cast Recording Response: 110 in the Shade (1999 Studio Cast)

110The gulf between the musicals that connoisseurs love and those that people pay to see is ever widening. The rapturously beautiful The Bridges of Madison County doesn’t last half a season, while the pedestrian Beautiful – The Carol King Musical continues to play to capacity, full-price-paying houses. Roundabout’s Broadway revival of Violet got among the best reviews of the season, but was consistently near the bottom of weekly box office, audience capacity, and ticket price rankings. My recent listens to the studio cast recording of 110 in the Shade (recorded in 1997, released in 1999) reminded me that this chasm is not necessarily new. Continue reading

Cast Album Response: Violet 2014 Broadway Cast

The public library system here in Cleveland is fantastic, with a great many new cast recordings at my disposal between my library’s well curated stock and what I can find through inter-library loan. Every few weeks I drop off a collection of CDs and pick up a new one. The Cast Recording Response contains my thoughts on my latest returns.

Violet (2014 Broadway Cast)

The story in Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s Violet is slight but emotionally rich: a young woman with a scar on her cheek seeks out a televangelist for literal healing and instead finds emotional healing through a combination of a compassionate young soldier and her own growing sense of empowerment. The original production never moved past Playwright’s Horizons, but did yield an Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording (on a label started by composer Jeanine Tesori ), and subsequently became a sentimental favorite for devotees of musical theater. It contains many wonderful numbers–most notably “On My Way“, “Let It Sing“, and “Lay Down Your Head”– and memorable performances by an impeachable cast (including Lauren Ward, Michael McElroy, Michael Park). The songs are presented without interrupting or introductory dialogue, which makes for a smooth listening experience but is confusing for listeners, like me, who have never seen a production. The lack of context can do the score a disservice, forcing songs that are meant to be heard as underscoring for scenes to sustain as individual tracks along side the more impressive highlights. The result is a disk that can seem uneven, and occasionally tedious.

This past weekend saw the closing of a well received, if unexpected, Broadway revival which boasted an acclaimed performance from star Sutton Foster and a revised text, which was refined and trimmed it to an intermission-less 90-ish minutes (losing a song or two in the process).The Broadway cast gets a deluxe two-disk recording that seems to preserve just about the complete show. Continue reading

Cast Recording Response: Fun Home

The public library system here in Cleveland is fantastic, with a great many new cast recordings at my disposal between my library’s well curated stock and what I can find through inter-library loan. Every few weeks I drop off a collection of CDs and pick up a new one. The Cast Recording Response contains my thoughts on my latest returns.

Fun Home
fun homeBefore listening, I had concerns about being able to appreciate the score (or follow the story) without benefit of seeing the production. Fortunately Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s score is tuneful and the emotional underpinnings resonant. The score manages the trick of writing very specifically for the characters and situations and, in doing so, reveals themes and feelings that are universal. “Ring of Keys” marks Young Alison’s transformative experience of meeting her first “butch”, but it’s joy and wonder can be appreciated by anyone who discovers a community in which they belong after previously feeling singular and alone. Continue reading