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

Why there’s a wench!

0000284109_500Kiss Me, Kate is a show I hold near a dear to my heart. As I junior in High School I played Bill Calhoun/Lucentio (and also got to sing “Too Darn Hot”) in a production that, by pure coincidence, happened around the time of the Broadway revival. A friend of mine went to see the show in New York and got Michael Berresse to sign a playbill “To Donald, from one Bill to another” (this was inexplicably THROWN AWAY by my ex-step dad, but I just have to move on with my life). I then got to see the national tour when it came to Cleveland.

But despite my fondness for the material, I haven’t really revisited it. Many of the songs have become standards, so I’ve heard plenty I’ve heard its greatest hits in various contexts and mash-ups throughout the years. But a dazzling concert presentation, presented as part of the BBC’s annual “Proms” concert series and streaming live on their website until the end of August, has reinvigorated by interest. 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