BWW Tonys Special: Ultimate Guide to This Season's Cast Recordings
It's that time of year, and I can't help but wonder if your CD collection and iPod are Tonys ready. As I write this, New York City and theatre fans across the world are buzzing about The Tony Awards, which will be broadcast live on Sunday, June 8, 2014 at 8/7c on CBS. This Broadway season has some really interesting contenders in the musical categories, and to get you ready for the big night, I'm recapping the albums you should be listening to (or at least pre-ordering).
The Original Musicals:
AFTER MIDNIGHT - Despite 7 nominations, including Best Musical, no Broadway Cast Recording has been announced for this musical, which transports audiences back to the original Jazz Age. However, Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, released "Duke Ellington: The Original Recordings That Inspired the Broadway Hit AFTER MIDNIGHT" to iTunes on May 27th. A physical CD version of the album will hit stores on June 17th. Like the original Cotton Club, AFTER MIDNIGHT is featuring a cavalcade of guest stars. Fantasia Barrino kick started the string of guests, and she recently returned to the production for a second limited run which ends on Sunday, June 8. For more information about AFTER MIDNIGHT, please visit http://www.aftermidnightbroadway.com.
ALADDIN - In the same vein of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and THE LION KING, Disney has returned to their catalogue of films from my childhood to bring a show to the Broadway stage. With a total of 5 nominations, including Best Musical and Best Original Score, the peppy and lighthearted Alan Menken score for ALADDIN is filled with nostalgia and a few new surprises in the form of songs cut from the film. Walt Disney Records digitally released ALADDIN (Original Broadway Cast Recording) to iTunes and Amazon on May 27, 2014. Physical copies of the album, due out on June 17, can be pre-ordered from the musical's online store and from Amazon. For more information about ALADDIN, please visit http://www.aladdinthemusical.com.
BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL - Like the über-successful jukebox musical JERSEY BOYS, BEAUTIFUL tells the story of a pop legend set to her own music. The reminiscence driven potboiler garnered 7 nominations, including Best Musical, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, and Best Orchestrations. Released digitally on March 18 and physically on May 14, 2014 by Ghostlight Records, BEAUTIFUL: THE CAFROLE KING MUSICAL (Original Broadway Cast Recording) can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. Truth be told, I wasn't really wowed by the music on this album, but I know it has a strong fan base with the baby boomers. While I persoanlly don't agree, it is no secret that it's a likely win for Best Actress in a Musical and also has a stong chance of taking home the Best Musical award too. For more information about BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL please visit http://www.beautifulonbroadway.com.
BIG FISH - This romantic musical, complete with an old school Broadway score by Andrew Lippa, closed faster than many expected. With lush strings and warm brass, this Tony eligible musical surprisingly earned no Tony Nominations at all. Perhaps the score and orchestrations were just too commercial sounding, lacking the depth and complexity of Andrew Lippa's earlier works, like THE WILD PARTY? Maybe Nobert Leo Butz and Kate Baldwin weren't memorable enough? While I wouldn't have picked it as a winner, I definitely feel the musical was terribly snubbed by not being nominated. Released digitally on February 7 and physically on February 11, 2014 by Broadway Records, BIG FISH (Original Broadway Cast Recording) can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon.
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY - While not his best work, Jason Robert Brown's utterly gorgeous and evocative score for THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY has got to be the most beautiful new music written for the Broadway stage in years. Sadly, the show's early departure from Broadway was a true disappointment. Coupled with the fact that this well-loved production only picked up a paltry 4 Tony Nominations, including Best Original Score Written for the Theatre and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, I am hoping fans of musicals finally get some good news from this show on Sunday! From what we can hear on the recording, if Jason Robert Brown and Kelli O'Hara don't scoop up those awards, I will seriously question the aural health of the Tony voters. THE BRIDGES OVER MADISON COUNTY (Original Broadway Cast Recording) was released digitally on April 15 and physically on May 19, 2014 by Ghostlight Records, and can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon.
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY - This splashy musical comedy based on Woody Allen's film by the same name is cherished for being a glitzy spectacle filled with large production numbers and impressive sets. The jukebox musical-like score is composed of popular standards and jazz hits from about 1918 to 1930. With 6 Tony Nominations, it's not really the music that people are all abuzz about with this show. In fact, many are expecting to see Susan Stroman take home the Tony for Best Choreography. Regardless, the swinging BULLETS OVER BROADWAY (Original Broadway Cast Recording) was released digitally by Masterworks Broadway on June 3, 2014 and be purchased from iTunes. Physical copies of the album will be released on June 10 and can be purchased from Amazon and elsewhere music is sold. For more information about BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, please visit http://bulletsoverbroadway.com.
FIRST DATE - I am reticent to use the word deplore, but I really loathed this cast recording. I can appreciate what Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner were attempting to do with their comedic musical take on a blind date, but I was not one bit surprised when the musical was completely and totally overlooked for nominations. The humor wasn't irreverent enough to be memorable. The score was poppy, but forgettable. The singing was passable. I kind of feel like I would have liked it better if I had seen the piece, but the FIRST DATE (Original Broadway Cast Recording) didn't leave me desiring to visit the Longacre either. The album was released digitally on September 24 and physically on October 15, 2013 by Yellow Sound Label, and it can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon.
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER - With a whopping 10 Tony nominations, including Best Musical and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, this show is the one that everyone is predicting to sweep this year's ceremonies. I enjoyed the cast album, but I still feel certain that it would have delighted me more if I had actually seen the show on stage (which is something I'm hoping to remedy shortly after I move to the Greater NYC area). Steven Lutvak's score takes audiences back to the Victorian Era, giving listeners the robust and vibrant sounds of the English Music Hall. Jefferson Mays plays a multitude of wacky characters, each with a distinctive voice. I have to admit the album is a fun listen, and I definitely won't be surprised if this little show that could murders their competition in almost every category on Sunday evening. Ghostlight Records digitally released A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER (Original Broadway Cast Album) on February 25. The physical CD was released on April 1, 2014. The recording can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. For more information about the show, please visit http://www.agentlemansguidebroadway.com.
IF/THEN: A NEW MUSICAL - From Tom Kitt and Bryan Yorkey, the team that brought us NEXT TO NORMAL, comes a new musical about a newly divorced woman who moves to New York City for a fresh start. She meets two new friends in Madison Square Park who give her differing advice, and the remainder of the show illustrates two different paths her life could follow. Only nominated for Best Original Score Written for the Theatre and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, IF/THEN seems to have surprisingly underwhelmed the Tony Awards' Nominating Committee. The music features telltale signs of Tom Kitt's style and Brian Yorkey's lyrics present listeners with the angst of middle age. Simply put, the score may be too much like NEXT TO NORMAL to win. Furthermore, since Idina Menzel won the Tony for Elphaba in 2003 and the fact that Elizabeth is not as interesting as the green skinned witch, I'm not predicting a win for her either. Masterworks Broadway digitally released IF/THEN: A NEW MUSICAL (Original Broadway Cast Album) on May 30, 2014. Physical copies of the CD were released on June 3. The album can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. For more information about the show, please visit http://www.ifthenthemusical.com.
A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN - This rocking musical, more a re-creation of a Janis Joplin concert with biographic information mixed in, enjoyed a short but successful run on The Great White Way. The genre of Jukebox Musical is always a tricky beast. While some dominate the Tony Nominations and Tony Awards, others seem totally forgotten. Unfortunately for A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN, it falls into that later category, only earning a Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical nomination for Mary Bridget Davies. This show didn't stop by Houston, Texas on it's way to Broadway, so I only have the Original Broadway Cast Recording to go off of, but with electrifying performances and an uncanny ability to vocally emulate the late Janis Joplin, I am certain that Mary Bridget Davies is a strong contender in this category. I really hope that Kelli O'Hara nabs the award, but I'm penciling in Mary Bridget Davies as this season's possible dark horse. A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN (Original Broadway Cast Recording) was released digitally on January 17, 2014 and physically on February 11 by Broadway Records. It can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon.
ROCKY BROADWAY - I've been a fan of Andy Karl for quite some time, so he was what made me immediately interested in the musical adaptation of the Sylvester Stallone film Rocky. Friends and other people who have seen it all gush about its Scenic Design, especially for the climatic fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed. Therefore, of the four Tony Nominations ROCKY got, I wouldn't be surprised to see it win Best Scenic Design of a Musical. With music and lyrics penned by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, I'm somewhat surprised to not see their work get a nod. However, with eye-roll worthy songs like "My Nose Ain't Broken" and their reliance on interpolating "Eye of the Tiger" into the score to get our blood pumping, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. Moreover, the insistence on coining the show "ROCKY BROADWAY" as if we need the reminder of where it's playing makes me wonder if this musical won't be met with the same commercial successes as the previous tenants of the Winter Garden Theatre. UMe (Universal Music Enterprises) both digitally and physically released ROCKY BROADWAY (Original Broadway Cast Recording) on May 27, 2014. It can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. For more information about the show, please visit http://rockybroadway.com.
SOUL DOCTOR - With no nominations, and no cast album, this musical is this season's Tony eligible little show that just couldn't. During it's brief run at Circle in the Square Theatre it gained a mild fan following and did well enough for a 2014 production to be mounted in Yiddish at The Segal Center for Performing Arts by the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre from June 8 through the 29 in Montreal. The musical is a coming of age story centered on the inspiring courage of Shlomo Carelebach, an unconventional Jewish rabbi, who was well known as "The Singing Rabbi."
CABARET - Who doesn't want to see Alan Cumming reprise his iconic interpretation of the Emcee? Ever since this photocopy of the 1998 Broadway revival was announced, people all over the world have been making plans to see this show by any means necessary. Picking up 2 Tony Nominations, both Best Performance by an Actor and Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, I was quite surprised that it is the only Broadway musical revival not nominated for Best Revival of a Musical. Did I expect it to win? No. It won back in 1998 when it first opened. But, it does seem like a glaring omission. Nevertheless, audiences are thrilled that Studio 54 has once again been transformed into the Kit Kat Club. As if you don't already own it, RCA Victor Broadway and BMG Entertainment released CABARET: The New Broadway Cast Recording on June 30, 1998. It can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon (where they still have the sterling album on Audio Cassette!). Please note, at this time there are no plans to record a 2014 cast album. For more information about the show, please visit http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/shows-events/cabaret.aspx.
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH - Those who have been fortunate enough to see HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH are absolutely raving about it. The fan and media frenzy the show has accumulated makes it clear that it is well deserving of its striking 8 Tony Nominations. And seriously, who isn't counting on Neil Patrick Harris to win Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical. I also predict that it will grab the award for Best Revival of a Musical among others. With a closing date of August 17, 2014 already announced, I'm praying that I can get into see this show once I relocate to the NYC area in mid-June. In the meantime, I am loving listening to the HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (Original Cast Recording), which was released on Feburary 9, 1999 by Atlantic Records and can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. I am also highly anticipating the HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (Original Broadway Cast Recording), which will be released digitally on July 1, 2014 and physically on July 15 by Atlantic Records. The Original Broadway Cast Recording can be pre-ordered from iTunes and Amazon. For more information about the show, please visit http://hedwigbroadway.com.
LES MISERABLES - Many ask why did this show ever leave Broadway? Others ask, why did it come back so quickly? No matter what side of the fence you are, you have to admit it seems like everyone truly adores this musical. The current Broadway revival presents New York audiences with the 25th Anniversary tour production of the musical, which initially took to the stage on December 12, 2009 at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. Earning only 3 Tony Nominations, including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, and boasting a star-studded cast of Broadway and West-End veterans, it is a true surprise that a 2014 Broadway Revival Cast Recording of LES MISERABLES isn't already planned. I guess having 7 English language recordings and approximately 27 non-English language recordings already available makes producers reluctant to add another drop to an already flooded market. If you want to hear the new orchestrations, check out LES MISERABLES LIVE! (The 2010 Cast Album) released on October 12, 2010 by First Night (Red). It can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. For more information about the show, please visit http://www.lesmis.com/broadway.
VIOLET - Broadway's sweetheart, Sutton Foster, returns to the New York stage in the Broadway revival of VIOLET, which tells the story of a young, disfigured woman who takes a bus from her family's farm in Spruce Pine, North Carolina to Tulsa, Oklahoma in order to be healed. With an Americana inspired score by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics by Brian Crawley, this toe-tapping crowd pleaser scooped up 4 Tony Nominations, including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical. Like other shows, its closing date is already fast upon us. Fans of Sutton Foster, Americana, and stories about the strength within us all only have until August 10, 2014 to catch this production. On the other hand, VIOLET (Original Broadway Cast Recording) was released digitally on May 20, 2014 and physically on June 3 by PS Classics. It can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. For more information about the show, please visit http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/Shows-Events/violet.aspx