Album Review: Broadway's HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO Is Closing But Finds More Life With Its Cast Recording

The show may be closing but the music goes on …

By: Feb. 07, 2024
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Album Review: Broadway's HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO Is Closing But Finds More Life With Its Cast Recording Heigh Ho, dear lovely rainbow tribe, welcome back to Bobby’s CD sandbox where we offer our broken-down breakdowns of new music releases. So, strap in and get ready, as Bobby goes on the record ABOUT the record.

This week’s album entry in the BobbyFiles comes from one of those Broadway gems that far too few people have gotten to see sparkle. HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO, the musical on The Great White Way about young people on the spectrum, will have run a scant 27 previews and 70ish official performances before shuttering its doors this Sunday. Based on the 2015 Peabody Award-Winning documentary of the same title by Alexandra Shiva, OHIO (the musical) was developed at Syracuse Stage and follows a group of “... young adults and their families navigating change and preparing for a spring formal dance—a rite of passage that breaks open their daily routines in Columbus, Ohio.” What could go wrong? Right? For the first time ever, a Broadway musical has been cast using non-neuronormative performers playing the self-same non-neuronormative characters… seven of them, in fact, all with their own personal places on the spectrum, portraying the specific places on the spectrum occupied by those characters. What could go wrong? Right? The only thing that went wrong was a dearth of ticket sales for a more than worthy new Broadway Musical. Well, them’s the breaks sometimes, but this breakthrough in casting is a door that should never be shut again. “Normies” as the non-normie community refers to them, have locked up and locked out casting brackets where they could take on the challenge of “acting” like they have challenges, soaking up opportunities for gifted performers who can act, but don’t have to act autistic, deaf, or any other variety of differences in physical or mental development, and BRAVO Bobby says. Now to the cast album...

With Book and Lyrics by Rebekah Greer Melocik and Music by Jacob Yandura, OHIO is a tuneful, heartfelt journey that is well portrayed on this recording exquisitely produced by brand new outfit Center Stage Records, who chose to make this recording their maiden voyage. Kicking off with TODAY IS, the cast introduces each of their spectrum POVs as they go through their well-worn routines to face the day ahead of them in Ohio. Each relates the challenges they have and conveys that prescient (what? Bobby knows words!) musical theatre tension that their routine is going to change on this day and impact what they are used to for their mental safety - the habits they have formed and structure that they trust. The song cleverly interrupts to deal with any overstimulation, then leads straight into track 2 (reprise) where Dr. Amigo (Caesar Samayoa), the group counselor for all of the central characters, is setting up to greet his charges before they arrive for the session that is a necessary part of their coping in a confusing world. The voices are excellent, ditto all the acting, as the heightened tension comes across perfectly, and this is all before any of the characters are even in the same room together for the first time. Samayoa's voice is filled with all the love, care, and nerves he must have portrayed in the theatre. The anxieties of these people’s lives are what drive this piece after all. Track 4 - THE HOW TO’S - is a beautifully layered number where cast members sing about learning to cope in the wake of loss, either by death or divorce, in a very Craig Canelia circa 1980s roundelay. With the gorgeous GETTING READY FOR THE DANCE, two moms named Johanna and Terry (Haven Burton & Darlesia Cearcy) are talking themselves through their memories of their own first dances, as they make preparations for their special needs children to take this step and move through a “normal” right-of-passage - mothers so wanting but so afraid of their child spreading their wings. From Act 2, Bobby’s personal fave song is SO MUCH IN COMMON, a beautifully arranged and complex chorus number where the group mixes and matches their thoughts about finding common ground before they pair up for their dates and dances - their fear of all the things that could go wrong, nervously outweighed by their excitement to try something new.

Each of the characters gets their moments to shine solo-wise, and shine they do. All of these fine actors are living inside this story and Center Stage’s production of this album gives the listener a real sense of the show without the help of the musical’s book, and this always gets high marks from this rainbow writer, as you all know. In the end, in Bobby’s humble O, it is the FINALE that lets the listener down ever-so-slightly, a mostly lackluster piece that sounds and feels cobbled together to wrap it all up, which is not what an audience or listener wants (or expects) from their musical theater finale. This is only a slight ding, as we really did enjoy this album and hope that many will buy it (the CD Booklet is GORGEOUS and filled with great stuff btw, for those who still buy albums, rather than stream online) and hopefully people go see this worthy piece of theatre if it tours or is mounted out there in the provinces near all you musical theater lovers... or fans of the film who might become musical theater lovers through this very worthy new play. In all, despite this one little ding…

HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO Original Broadway Cast Recording gets 4 Out Of 5 Rainbows

Put this one in your Amazon stream: HERE

You Can Put It In Your Spotifies: HERE

AND

You Can See And Hear Everything About HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO On The Webbysite: HERE

Center Stage Records has a website HERE.

How To Dance In Ohio will play Broadway until February 11th - get tickets online HERE.

The cast of How To Dance In Ohio is Caesar Samayoa, Desmond Luis Edwards, Amelia Fei, Madison Kopec, Liam Pearce, Conor Tague, Ashley Wool, Imani Russell, Haven Burton, Darlesia Cearcy, Carlos L. Encinias, Andrew Kober, Melina Kalomas, Cristina Sastre, Jean Christian Barry, Collin Hancock, Hunter Hollingsworth, Marina Jansen, Marina Pires, Martin Sola, and Ayanna Nicole Thomas.

Album Review: Broadway's HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO Is Closing But Finds More Life With Its Cast Recording




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