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Album Review: FUNNY GIRL THE NEW BROADWAY CAST RECORDING Is Fanny-Tastic

Album Review: FUNNY GIRL THE NEW BROADWAY CAST RECORDING Is Fanny-Tastic

The new cast recording of FUNNY GIRL is everything you hoped for when you dreamed of a new Funny Girl.

Album Review: FUNNY GIRL THE NEW BROADWAY CAST RECORDING Is Fanny-Tastic I discovered the original cast recording for FUNNY GIRL when I was ten years old, and that is when I really began to understand the difference between a cast album and a movie soundtrack. I had been listening to both genres of albums since I was five (when my Mama gave me the soundtrack to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, to go with my birthday outing to the picture show) and eight (when I found and checked out the cast recording to My Fair Lady from the public library). My pre-teen mind had sort of registered that there was a difference between the two types of recordings but, with both versions of Funny Girl at my disposal, it really became crystal clear that when they made a movie version of a Broadway play, it wasn't the same thing. The disparity between the two albums was so vast, with many contrasting songs from one recording to the other, and varied interpretations of the songs that remained consistent (not that I knew anything at all about interpretation). What I loved, most of all, though, was trying to figure out what was happening, based on what I was hearing. That was my general experience of most cast albums because I was just a kid living in the midwest, listening to record albums of Broadway plays with no idea of what actually happened on the stage. There weren't always extensive liner notes on the albums I got from the library or (on special occasions) bought from the record store. The Mame Cast album had two black and white photos on the back - one of a glamorous lady and one of a handsome man - and a lot of writing that sort of told me about the play, but not in the kind of detail that I craved. The Dear World album was the same way, as was the case with Oliver, The Music Man, Applause, and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. I had to piece it together by listening and by trying to find anything in the library to help paint the pictures in my head.

But Funny Girl was different. The album opened up and there were photos and some expository writing on the inside. This was great. I loved it so much that it became one of the albums I listened to the most, an experience made even better, once I discovered the hardcover play scripts in the library and began taking them home to read, including the Random House Fireside Theatre Book Club Edition of Funny Girl, which even included photos of the play on Broadway. It was the closest I was ever going to get to New York and the real-life experience of seeing this play, the record of which I listened to every day until my Mam told me I was making her crazy with it, and could I please play something else? It was my be-all, end-all, that album, Funny Girl, and, honestly, it still is, today. It remains one of the great Original Broadway Cast Albums, and one I listen to more frequently than I would like to admit.

So, what was I going to think of the new Funny Girl cast album? Was I going to be one of those fans so devoted to the original that I would be unable to find a redeeming quality in the revival cast album? Would I nitpick and criticize everything that I heard, unable to shake the ghost of my childhood musical theater Rock of Gibraltar?

No, I am not.

I'm not going to be that person because the new Broadway cast recording of FUNNY GIRL is as good a cast recording as there has ever been. It is beyond good, it is sensational, it is wonderful, it is exciting, it is everything we all hoped it would be, and it is the revival cast recording we have waited for and we deserve.

The Funny Girl album, produced by Gemini Theatrical, Accidental Jacket, and Sony Masterworks Broadway, was released on November 18th on digital platforms and fans will be happy to note that a physical CD will be released on Friday, January 20, 2023. The album lists producers David Caddick and David Lai and co-producers Sonia Friedman, Scott Landis, David Babani, Michael Mayer, Brian Gillet, Huck Walton, Sean Keller, and Marc Levine, and while I don't understand why there are so many producers for one album, I don't care: each of these people should be thanked for their part in bringing this recording into the world. It is Funny Girl for a new generation of fans, and it's important because, like that little boy craving all things Broadway before he even reached the age of ten, there are a lot of people who won't get to see Funny Girl, and this will be their link to it. Yes. There are YouTube videos. There are bootlegs and there are TikToks. There is, however, no substitute for a right and proper cast recording, and the experience of listening to an album of your favorite Broadway show will not be changed by internet videos pieced together to give you a sense of what you're missing out on. A good cast album is a constant source of joy and nourishment, designed to last you the rest of your life. And that's what we are looking at here.

The creatives for this recording have given the listener an immaculately crafted balance of dialogue that tells the story, tap dancing that displays the theatrical, and impeccable performances of both the vocal and acting variety to paint pictures in the head of what the actors are doing on the stage. There is more material on this album than on the original 1964 cast recording, by way of new songs for Nicky Arnstein, dance numbers by Eddie Ryan, some dream ballet instrumentals, a new ensemble number, and the inclusion of the title song from the film, in more than one performance. It is a fully realized preservation of the play currently running on Broadway, and a glorified documentation of Lea Michele's remarkable performance, which this writer has not seen and is judging, solely, by this recording, the way many others will have to do. Not every fan of Ms. Michele, Funny Girl, or GLEE will be able to make the trip to New York, and not every New Yorker will be able to afford the Funny Girl ticket prices (it's not cute), so the album has to be able to give it all - and it does. It really does.

Many cast recordings, these last two decades, have lost their theatricality. Singers get into the recording studio and stand justthisclose to the microphone. Synthesizers make the band sound like a pop group. Mixing and Mastering can leave an album sounding like it was recorded in a vacuum. It's a generational thing, it is not likely to change, and we all just have to live with it. Gone are the days when cast albums were recorded at Webster Hall, when you could hear the echo of the Broadway singers' voices and the tap dancers' taps on real wooden floors. That's life, and it's just too doggone bad. But there's none of that here. The recording of Funny Girl has retained full theatricality, with Lea Michele's voice ringing out into your home, your AirPods, or your computer speakers with proper vibrational resonance and stage savvy, and Jared Grimes's slaps, flaps, and taps pounding out as though on the stage of the August Wilson. Ramin Karimloo is bright and brassy, stalwart and sexy in his numbers and it is such a blessing to have a Broadway Cast Album that features the legendary great American actress Tovah Feldshuh - just hearing Tovah say the word "Fannaleh" on the "If A Girl Isn't Pretty" track is enough to elicit a smile, right from the heart, but then we get that inimitable voice on her own numbers (although the original score's "Find Yourself A Man" has been expurgated, and rightly so, it would have been nice to hear Feldshuh's take on the composition). And speaking of truncating the score, they have trimmed "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" and fans of the bigger numbers from the OBCR and the film may miss it, but it is a choice that is (truthfully) negligible, and barely worth mentioning when discussing a recording with so abundant a wealth of treasures. "Cornet Man" will get you smiling, it's so incredible, "I Want To Be Seen With You" is so charming you'll find yourself sighing, and "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat" is simply marvelous, as is Karimloo'suave and smooth "Temporary Arrangement" - how nice to have some Nick Arnstein material to listen to.

The chemistry between Michele and Karimloo during their duets is discernible, and Lea Michele's commitment to the work is off the charts, from dialogue asides during the comedy numbers to her intricate containment on power ballads that others might have felt pressure to make grander than Michele has. The performance of the song "Funny Girl" is so tender as to embody the concept of excess within control, the new treatment of "Who Are You Now" (a duet here) is the lushest, most romantically heartbreaking thing of ultimate beauty, and you're going to cry, that's how good "The Music That Makes Me Dance" is. And as for "People" - all these years, it is a song that this writer never wants to hear anyone sing, except for Barbra Streisand (and Julia Murney in a YouTube video from an Actor's Fund Benefit)... until now. Don't sing "The Man That Got Away," don't sing "Maybe This Time," and don't sing "People." Unless you're Lea Michele because this recording of "People" is real, it is honest, it is a tribute to Streisand, and, more importantly, it is a tribute to Lea Michele, who is the Fanny Brice we have all been waiting for, all this time. She is who it should have been, all these years that people have talked about wanting a Funny Girl revival, and we all just had to wait for the timing to be right. Thank goodness it finally was because we all deserve this: the people who love Broadway, the people who love Funny Girl, the people who love cast albums, the people who love musical theater. And do you know what? Barbra Streisand deserves to know that Fanny is in good hands, and Lea Michele deserves to have her hands be the hands that hold the Funny Girl legend.

The torch has finally been passed, and everyone can rest easy. Funny Girl has come home.

Funny Girl The New Broadway Cast Recording is currently available digitally and will be available on January 29, 2023 as a physical CD. Pre-order the album at the link below.


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