BWW CD Reviews: Jay Records' HIMSELF AND NORA (Original Off-Broadway Cast) is Captivating
Based on the rocky romance shared by quintessential Irish wordsmith James Joyce and his muse, chambermaid Nora Barnacle, HIMSELF AND NORA enjoyed a successful run as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Theatre at St. Clement's in the summer of 2012. With a sparse cast of five, tautly constructed economical harmonies, and a small five member band, Jay Records' release of HIMSELF AND NORA (Original Off-Broadway Cast) excellently captures the heart and soul of this biographic musical.
In just 67 minutes, the 20-track album follows James Joyce's life for 37 years. Even though we are missing the book scenes from the musical on the recording, listeners get a good picture of what the show must be like in performance. Jonathan Brielle's music and lyrics capably capture the ups and downs of the tumultuous relationship. The few book moments that make it to the CD only deepen our understanding of their relationship, ensuring that listeners who haven't experienced the show can relate to it. However, what sets this musical apart from any other musical about a turbulent romance is that both James Joyce and Nora Barnacle have an astounding command of the English language, so both characters engage in absorbing witty wordplay.
Starring as James Joyce, Matt Bogart's lyric baritone instrument is handsomely applied to the score, giving his characterization of the famous author an undeniable masculine charm. His voice radiates on key musical moments such as the angst-ridden "Man of Erin," the sensual "Kiss," the lively Irish jig "River Liffey," and the sumptuously romantic "All Ways in Love."