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BWW Album Review: Tom Kitt & The Collective REFLECT on One Very Tough Year


Reflect is now available from Masterworks Broadway.

BWW Album Review: Tom Kitt & The Collective REFLECT on One Very Tough Year

By this point, it feels like every major musical name has produced some kind of "pandemic project": a "where we are now" piece of storytelling calling out the hallmarks of the devastating year and a half (and counting) we've been through. With Tom Kitt's new album, Reflect, there's a refreshing lack of gimmick to it.

There's not really a through-line or an irritatingly cutesy approach. Instead, Kitt and his collaborators, aka "The Collective" - many of whom perform the songs they collaborated on - lean into specific moments and visceral emotions: the grief, the painful boredom, the yearning, and, yes, the all-encompassing anger. But instead of dragging listeners into despair, it works more as an outlet and a catharsis that lets us all let it out together.

The album's opening salvo pulls no punches. In the hands of Javier Muñoz, "The King of Our Destruction" is a furious litany detailing the cruelty and incompetence that came to a head in 2020. "It didn't have to be this way," goes one repeated line, and if that's not the tagline for the past almost-two years, I don't know what is. There are plenty of people we could nominate as the "king" addressed in the title, but let's be honest: the fact that there are multiple ignominious candidates for that title is pretty much the point.

If fury opens the album, it's grief that links much of it together. We've become accustomed to many kinds of grief and loss - not just literal loss of lives, but loss of normalcy, loss of connection, loss of the little things that lift us up. That's what "When?," touchingly sung by Lauren Patten, focuses on. The loss of human contact has been so difficult for so many; it's hard not to get emotional listening to this song about the simple desire to brush up against someone's shoulder or get invited to go somewhere.

We've also got "This Too Shall Pass," a bittersweet tribute to a phrase that has become almost meaningless at this point. As sung by Kitt himself, it puts into words an all too relatable sentiment: "This too shall pass, they say - just not today." And then there's the devastating "I Didn't Get to Say Goodbye" - another phrase we've gotten too used to hearing. Adrienne Warren delivers powerful vocals on the story of a couple who, like so many in real life, never got to say a final goodbye. Another track, "She Has Hope," is performed by Brian d'Arcy James and penned by Danny Burstein and his late wife, Rebecca Luker.

Alongside our collective grief has been our collective anger, especially surrounding the past year's push for justice amidst increasing radicalization and hate. Reflect takes the time to address those too. Michael McElroy is riveting on "My Curtain Call," a devastating, occasionally hopeful, and complex reflection on the experience of being a Black man in the theatre and in the world as a whole. A similar spirit is reflected in "Sweep Your Own Snow" from Pearl Sun, in which she unpacks a lesson from her mother, set against the backdrop of ongoing anti-Asian racism in America. Both specific in story and wide in themes, they're songs that shouldn't be missed.

The final track on the album, "Breathe," with Elizabeth Stanley, is a little different than the rest. In some ways, it's a representation of the cacophony (both external and internal) that we've all been dealing with. And yet, in the end, it's a reminder to take care of ourselves and each other. After all, that's the only way we're getting through this: reflecting honestly, making real change, and lifting each other up.

Reflect is now available from Masterworks Broadway.

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