BWW Album Review: BULLDOZER: THE BALLAD OF ROBERT MOSES Tells a Tame Story of a Polarizing Figure
When a musical is titled "Bulldozer," listeners might expect its score to contain a blaze of sound, a rush of electric guitars, and a furious pounding of drums. The original cast recording of the Off-Broadway musical Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses, however, reveals its score to be a fairly tame collection of pop-rock songs.
Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses attempts to tell the story of Robert Moses, the visionary credited with transforming New York City by pushing for the construction of highways, bridges, and tunnels. He strongly favored the expansion of highways over investment in the public transportation system, which eventually put him at odds with many residents of New York. Despite the long and complicated life that Moses led, the cast recording of Bulldozer, which features music and lyrics by Peter Galperin, clocks in at only about thirty minutes and barely scratches the surface of his story.
In order to convey plot information, the show uses a narrator who appears on the album in five different reprises of the same song titled, "Masterplan." The narrator sings a folk style that contrasts strangely with the rest of the music and with the show's self-identification of a rock musical. Perhaps the choice to present the narrator as a folk musician is in some way an allusion to the famous folk song "John Henry," which tells the tale of a steel-driver who fought against a steam-powered drilling machine, in the context of the cast recording, these narrated interludes feel out of place and jarring.
The problem that plagues most album is the repetitive nature of the lyrics. Several of the songs, including "We Like What We Like," "Don't You Dare," and "You Can't See", contain choruses made up mostly of one line repeated again and again, often the lyrics from which that number gets its title. While lyrical repetition can be an effective tool in songwriting, Galperin employs it so often throughout the show that it becomes a tired and overused choice.
The true highlight of the album is the strength of the singing of the five-person cast of Bulldozer: The Story of Robert Moses. Tony nominee Constantine Maroulis has the most to sing in the central role of Robert Moses himself and is able to convey a clear difference between the young ambitious Moses and the older power-hungry Moses through just his voice. Kacie Sheik lends a bubbly freshness to the album as Moses' assistant and lover, although the bright tone of her voice sometimes seems to overpower Maroulis' on their duets. As Moses' nemesis, the activist Jane Jacobs, Molly Pope sings with both ferocity and desperation as she fights against Moses' plans to destroy Greenwich Village in order to build a Lower Manhattan Expressway.
Overall, while the music of Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses is an enjoyable listen and showcases some wonderful vocal talents, it doesn't bring anything particularly new or exciting to the genre of musical theatre.