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BWW Album Review: UNKNOWN SOLDIER (Original Cast Recording) is Truly Gorgeous and Evocative


This cast and every person involved in the recording have done their jobs with aplomb.

BWW Album Review: UNKNOWN SOLDIER (Original Cast Recording) is Truly Gorgeous and Evocative

Ghostlight Records released UNKNOWN SOLDIER (Original Cast Recording), one of composer Michael Friedman's last scores, on what would have been his 46th birthday: Friday, September 24, 2021. The Playwrights Horizons' production of this musical was the last I would see before COVID shut the world down, so I was thrilled to get to listen to the album some 18 months later. The recording doesn't disappoint. Every lush and elegiac note and melody has been pristinely preserved with this truly gorgeous and evocative album.

The plot of UNKNOWN SOLDIER is a bit complex. It spans three generations of familial lore, and centers on Ellen unearthing her family's remarkable history. The musical progresses non-linearly through the utterly romantic but truly heartrending tale. If you missed the New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons, or its world premiere at the Williamstown Theater Festival, I'd highly encourage you to read the synopsis to get the most enjoyment possible from listening to the stirring album. This will ensure listeners fully appreciate the nuance of the lyrics by Friedman and Daniel Goldstein without getting to experience how glorious Goldstein's book for the musical is in performance.

Starring as Ellen, Margo Seibert lends her captivating vocals to the album and easily draws forth empathy from the listener. The urgency she sings with on tracks like "The Worst Town in New York" makes us desperate for her to solve the mystery of the unknown soldier. The delicatible heaviness of Seibert's honeyed vocals make the doubt and pessimism of her character palpable on tracks like "Milkshake" and the deftly performed, emotionally-wrought ballad "I Give Away Children."

Erik Lochtefeld skillfully sings Andrew, a worn-down and weary small town librarian who decides to help Ellen. His dry, sardonic vocals give way to curious fascination early in the album. In "Milkshake," fascination gives way to romantic fantasies. For the heartfelt ballad "Andrew's Story," Lochtefeld expertly showcases the emotional aftermath of Andrew's repeated unfulfilled and unrequited fantasies.

Kerstin Anderson, as young Lucy, fills the record with the sheer depth of romance that has been broken by unfortunate circumstances. The listener is enraptured and swept away by the grace of her often hopeful yet always heavy voice on tracks like "The First Time," "Do You Wonder," and "Penelope." Perhaps, the best example is Anderson's sumptuous solo "A Husband Takes Care of the Things," in which her young Lucy must confront the fact that her husband is dead and will never return home.

Perry Sherman, as the unknown and amnesiac soldier, is the grounding force of the whole production. With his capable instrument, Sherman makes the soldier's inability to remember the woman he loved utterly heartbreaking. Through Sherman's vocals, we fully understand the soldier's confusion and how traumatizing becoming a celebrity for forgetting everything can be on tracks like "This Is A...," "The People Stare," and the totally devastating "The Clock."

It's hard to imagine Michael Friedman not being totally bowled over by how beautifully perfect Ghostlight Records' UNKNOWN SOLDIER (Original Cast Recording) is. The album is a sterling example of what delicate care, passion, and a desire to pristinely preserve a musical score yields. This cast and every person involved in the recording have done their jobs with aplomb, and the end result is beyond gratifying and truly brings tears to the eyes.

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From This Author David Clarke