BWW CD Reviews: MEET JOHN DOE (Original Studio Cast Album) Swings With Entertaining Authenticity
With a handful of performances around the nation, Broadway Records is excited to be releasing MEET JOHN DOE (Original Studio Cast Album). The Jonathan Larson Award-winning musical by Andrew Gerle and Eddie Sugarman is based on the 1941 Frank Capra film of the same title that starred Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper. Broadway Records' recording captures the flashy, toe-tapping Big Band score in all of its glory and features some of modern musical theatre's favorite voices, namely Robert Cuccioli, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, and Heidi Blickenstaff.
The plot centers on an ambitious reporter, Ann Mitchell, who is fired from her newspaper job during the Great Depression. She pens a prank letter to her own column from a "John Doe" who threatens to commit suicide by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge on Christmas Eve. He becomes a citywide sensation, and Ann hires an out-of-work baseball pitcher, John Willoughby, to play John Doe. Ann gets her job back by ghostwriting columns for him.
Both the lyrics and music by Andrew Gerle and Eddie Sugarman capture the era in which the plot is set, recreating 1930s and 1940s Americana with an enchanting precision. Whether swaying or dizzying, the music swings with a familiarity that is both comforting and intriguing. Likewise, the lyrics cleverly intersperse beloved colloquialisms and even the fast-talking associated with the films of the era. Andrew Gerle and Ernie Sugarman's vibrant soundscape and lyrics marry together perfectly, creating a truly cohesive sound.
Starring as Ann Mitchell, Heidi Blickenstaff's unmistakable vocal charm delights across the entire album. Her unique and powerful timbre easily conveys the character's strength and tenacity. We can't help but root for her as she fights for her job on "I'm Your Man," pleads for her father's understanding on "I Hope You Can See This," muscles her way back into the business of "Be More," struggles with John Willoughby's own concerns in "He Threw Me," and blatantly expresses her romantic feelings for John Willoughby in "Who the Hell (Forgot to Tell My Heart)."
As the men in Ann's life, both Robert Cuccioli as D.B. Norton, the owner of the newspaper Ann writes for, and James Moye as John Willoughby make their presence on the album known. With his deep and rumbling voice, Robert Cuccioli purposefully comes across as the stereotyped newspaper boss archetype on numbers like "Yesterday's News," "Fast Talking," "Be More," and "Bigger Than Baseball." James Moye is full of pep and vigor on "I Feel Like A Man Again" and beguiles with a sturdy and powerful vocal instrument on "Who The Hell (Forgot to Tell My Heart)." Additionally, Andrew Keenan-Bolger's lively vocalizations as Beany standout on numbers like "Yesterday's News" and "Money Talks."
MEET JOHN DOE (Original Studio Cast Album) does its job perfectly. It leaves the listener longing to see the musical produced on a stage. The score and vocals effortlessly entertain. You may not walk away from the recording with any of the songs stuck in your head, but you'll be excited to experience them again and again.
Broadway Records released MEET JOHN DOE (Original Studio Cast Album) both physically and digitally on November 26, 2013. The recording can be purchased from Amazon and elsewhere music is sold.
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Image courtesy of Broadway Records.