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Album Review: MR. SATURDAY NIGHT Original Cast Album Is Classic Musical Comedy Well Recorded And Released

The newly-released cast album from the Tony-nominated musical has great production values.

Mr. Saturday Night

Do you remember your first Broadway Original Cast Album? Remember when you would turn on the album (or CD) and listen to the recording from start to finish, letting the album take you on the journey that the Broadway audiences got to see, live? Of course, this was before the days of YouTube, where a person can practically see an entire show from their computer screen without ever actually going to a theater, at a time when exposure to a Broadway musical was based on what you read and what you heard, so album producers made every effort to really capture the essence of the play on the album.

That's what the producers of the Mr. Saturday Night Broadway Cast Recording have done.

Mr. Saturday Night is the new musical by composer Jason Robert Brown and lyricist Amanda Green, with a script by Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, and Billy Crystal, who stars in this play based on the movie script that the threesome wrote in 1992, which also starred Mr. Crystal, as well as David Paymer, who reprises his film role, here. Having Misters Crystal and Paymer in the play packs a weighty punch on the stage, and although Paymer's character has less to do on the album than he does on the stage, his presence here is deeply felt. It's a wonderful place to begin the Mr. Saturday Night Broadway experience, either in person or by way of the recording. There are many who will not be able to make it to New York to see this charming theater piece, and their enjoyment and understanding of the musical lies in the listening to of the cast album, which completely captures the essence of the show, and beautifully, too. With producing credits for both Brown and Green, alongside Jeffrey Lesser and Sean Patrick Flahaven, the cast album of Mr. Saturday Night features just the right amount of incidental dialogue to flavor the listening experience, and performances by the actors that capture the theatricality of this new American musical comedy. And Mr. Saturday Night is musical comedy in the classic tradition.

Mr. Saturday Night The Cast Album does a skillful job at bringing the listener into the play currently showing at the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway, an experience this writer had recently, just three days before the Tony Awards. The play is designed to bring joy and happiness to audiences, a task at which it is succeeding, and that joy is communicated not only through Brown and Green's score but by album producing that protects that score. Oftentimes, modern-day cast recordings can tend to sound artificial, thanks to an overabundance of synthesized instruments that overpower the voices, and singers whose lips are justthisclose to the microphone, sounding like they are singing into a toy telephone. Anybody who longs for the days of cast recordings like Hello, Dolly!, or the original 42nd Street (possibly the best cast recording of all time), when it sounded like you were listening to the performance, live, in the theater, is taking a risk when they buy a new cast album. They could find themselves with a watered-down, homogenized recording that they might play once and then relegate to a place on the shelf, in the Caselogic, or in their iTunes library, never to be heard again. The cast album of Mr. Saturday Night has been recorded to avoid all that artifice. The balance between band and actor is equitable, Randy Graff and Shoshana Bean have been allowed to belt, and Billy Crystal has been given permission to schtick it up. The emotional content of the songs is palpable, not dialed back, allowing the listener to enjoy the Broadway veterans whose work they already know, and get to know newcomers like Chasten Harmon, whose career they will, now, follow. And although the Yiddish scat singing is definitely more thoroughly enjoyed in the theater, where there is audience participation, it is completely represented on the album. From opening notes of orchestra to closing echoes of actors' voices, this is a right and proper cast recording.

And the actors' voices are wonderfully preserved here, as is the fine score by Amanda Green and Jason Robert Brown, an accessible and enjoyable one to be appreciated by all who love and understand musical comedy. Characters are brought to life through Brown's pleasant, catchy melodies and Green's clever and heartfelt lyrics, in numbers that reflect the people in the play, as opposed to some scores where the songs being sung don't quite fit the vibe of the people singing them. The score of Mr. Saturday Night is a wonderful example of writers creating character-based musical monologues, particularly for Mr. Crystal who, in spite of having sung nine opening Oscar numbers, people may have forgotten, is a rather good singer. Nobody in the cast is left ignored, including Jordan Gelber, Brian Gonzales, and Mylinda Hull, the three "Principal Players" who present a series of characters, rather like a Greek Chorus, in ways so industrious that it is actually a shame not to be able to see their Herculean efforts on the stage. Nevertheless, their acting artistry is well documented on the album, along with the rest of the cast, in a manner that makes this into one of those albums that one can, indeed, play from start to finish, (although those prone to playlists will want to put Shoshana Bean's "Maybe It Starts With Me" in their queue). Particular rewards on the album lie in the Randy Graff numbers because any time the Tony recipient is on Broadway, the world is a better place because songwriters have an opportunity to create for her specific gifts, which are considerable, and which are used to their full extent in this play.

As original cast recordings go, Mr. Saturday Night is an album that doesn't just represent all of the artists involved, from creatives to performers, it represents a level of quality that once existed in cast recordings, in abundance, and that, while some present-day albums miss the mark on, is clearly still attainable, and that's something that goes beyond the writing and performing of the songs. It's what the producers of the recording bring to the project, and Brown, Lesser, Flahaven, and Green have certainly done right by their cast and by Craft Recordings/Concord Theatricals, who are distributing this album that is a delight, from start to finish.

Mr. Saturday Night is a 2022 release on the Craft Recordings / Concord Theatricals label. It is available on all digital platforms and on the Craft/Concord website HERE.


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