BWW CD Reviews: Aaron Tveit's THE RADIO IN MY HEAD - Live at 54 BELOW is Underwhelming
Whenever people begin thinking of the young Broadway stars that show promise for career longevity, Aaron Tveit's magnanimous talent and indomitable energy come to mind. While a musical theatre major at Ithaca College, he left school to be an understudy for Mark and Roger in the national tour for RENT. From there, he went on to be in such acclaimed stage musicals as HAIRSPRAY, WICKED, NEXT TO NORMAL, and CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. He also played Enjolras in the 2012 film musical LES MISERABLES. Television audiences would recognize him from his 10-episode stint in the CW's Gossip Girl as William "Tripp" van der Bilt III and as Mike Warren from USA Network's police drama Graceland. Now, his ravenous fan base has a solo album, THE RADIO IN MY HEAD - Live at 54 BELOW, to clamor for. Sadly, the release is surprisingly underwhelming on several levels.
With a stunning and unique tenor instrument, Aaron Tveit's voice is one of the album's strongest aspects. He vocalizes each number with brilliant clarity and control. Every song is gorgeous, but the performances lack a certain energy. Listening to the album multiple times, I searched for the excitement and rush that I've enjoyed listening to Broadway Record's other live releases from 54 BELOW. There are a handful of numbers that he sells to the rafters. The standouts from the album are "I'm Alive" from NEXT TO NORMAL, "Something's Coming" from WEST SIDE STORY, "One Song Glory" from RENT, "Hero and Leander" from MYTHS AND HYMNS, and "Goodbye" from CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, but between previously purchased cast albums and YouTube, we've heard him perform most of these numbers already. Despite the handsome vocalizations, I'm left with the feeling that as a listener to the album I'm missing out on something because I didn't attend any of his six performances at the cherished venue.
When speaking, Aaron Tveit shows a plethora of zeal and engaging personality. In fact, I find several of his anecdotes to be more fascinating than the blandly safe arrangements of the numbers he performs. For example, Aaron Tveit indulges himself by singing a rendition of Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man." Since neither he nor Musical Director Bryan Perri did anything to differentiate this performance from Bruno Mars' original, we're just left with Aaron Tveit's voice perfectly crooning what is ultimately a boring Top 40 song without making it his own in any way. Likewise, many of the performances on the track suffer from not being rearranged to make them distinctively novel and imaginative. Therefore, his stories and commentary on "Welcome, Freshmen," "Where Am I?," "Not Your Average Lullaby," and "No Judgment" simply outshine his musical performances of tunes like "If I Loved You," "When I Was Your Man," "I Could Be In Love With Someone Like You," "She's Always A Woman," "A Case of You," "We Are Never Getting Back Together," "My Romance," and "I Remember You."