BWW CD Reviews: Ghostlight Records' A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Piques Interest
When Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak's musical comedy A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER opened on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre, it received rave reviews and was hailed by many as the best musical of 2013. Earlier this week, Ghostlight Records released the much-anticipated Original Broadway Cast Recording of the comical musical; however, after giving the CD a few spins, I couldn't help but feel that I was missing something.
Based on the 1907 novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman, which was also the source for the 1949 British film Kind Hearts and Coronets, A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER is set in London in 1909. It tells the story of half-Castilian Monty Navarro, who discovers that he is eighth in line to inherit the D'Ysquith family's dukedom. His childhood sweetheart, Sibella Hallward, finds this discovery fascinating, but reminds him that it is unlikely that those eight people will die. Also, she informs him that she plans to marry a man with money and power. Naturally, he sets out to dispatch the seven heirs and the current Earl that stand in his way from holding the title and wealth himself.
In the liner notes for the album, David Cote describes the score as "the unexpected offspring of Mother Opera and Father Music Hall." Steven Lutvak and Robert L. Freedman definitely pull inspiration from Edwardian musical comedy, which is instantly apparent in the brassy orchestrations. Likewise, the vocals on the disc are a cross-pollination of the musical style and the operetta style. With its 1909 setting, there could not be a more perfect aural landscape for A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER. So, why is there such a disconnect with me every time I listen to the album?
The best I can figure is the simple fact that I haven't seen the show. I find the lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak to be witty. I really enjoy how boldly Steven Lutvak adheres to the soundscape of Edwardian musicals, even including several patter songs. Likewise, I find Bryce Pinkham's tenor instrument to be charming throughout the whole recording, especially on numbers like "Foolish to Think," "Poison in My Pocket," and "Sibella." As Sibella Hallward, Lisa O'Hare delights on tracks like "I Don't Know What I'd Do," and Lauren Worsham as Phoebe D'Ysquith is radiant on tracks like "Inside Out." Additionally, both Lisa O'Hare and Lauren Worsham absolutely glow on "I've Decided to Marry You." Playing a majority of the D'Ysquith family, Jefferson Mays brings an intriguing comedic appeal to the album as well.
Yet, having only the liner notes for context for the show makes it hard to be really entertained by the CD as a whole. Each song impresses with its construction and impeccable performance; however, only a small handful of songs are memorable once the disc has stopped playing. With that said, in addition to the opening night raves, the album further piques my interest in seeing A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER.
Ghostlight Records digitally released A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER (Original Broadway Cast Recording) on February 25, 2014. Physical copies of the recording were released on April 1, 2014. The album can be purchased from Ghostlight Records, iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold.
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER is currently running on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Tickets are currently on sale through September 7, 2014. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.agentlemansguidebroadway.com or by calling either (212) 239-6200 0r (800) 432-7250.
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