BWW Album Review: WE ARE THE TIGERS (Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording) Bops with Beats and Bite
Preston Max Allen's WE ARE THE TIGERS made its Off-Broadway debut on February 21, 2019 at Theatre 80. While Allen's book seemed unsure of itself, the music and lyrics were fully realized and demanded to be recorded. Broadway Records answered that call and released WE ARE THE TIGERS (Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording), preserving the show's infectious, toe-tap inducing pop score. And, freed from the book scenes, this music comes across as more poignant and thought-provoking than it did in the context of the show.
In the liner notes for the album, Allen asserts that WE ARE THE TIGERS is less teen-horror and more an "in-depth discussion about the debilitating pressures put on young women to succeed." Through Allen's band of teenagers, the audience is exposed to youths "desperate to connect but terrified to communicate." These elements definitely resonated in performance; however, when the music and lyrics are the only words to focus on, it becomes abundantly clear that Allen has more to say than the quirky, oddly paced, and stumbling through genres stage production originally let on. This makes lines like "And I'm not sure that I'm okay, but I get stronger every day" emotionally impactful instead of a rib-tickling one-liner in a scene that felt like unintentional camp.
Sitting in Theatre 80, the first act seemed unnecessarily bogged down by a laundry list of issues plaguing girls in a modern teenage wasteland. I groaned through the ultimately beautiful "Skype Tomorrow" (surprisingly, to me, it's a favorite track of mine on the album) because it slowed the pacing of the murder mystery storyline. Likewise, I wanted to laugh through "Forever," but its camp sensibilities felt like they came out of nowhere. On the album, they don't. On WE ARE THE TIGERS (Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording) all of the songs feel essential. Each one has plenty to say about the trauma of being a teenager with secrets and struggles that you don't know to cope with or know how to get help coping with.
In some ways, lightening has struck twice with WE ARE THE TIGERS as well. Numbers that were outstanding in performance remain that way on the album. Standouts for fierce performances, witty lyrics, and memorable melodies include "Before the Breakdown," "Captain of the Team," "Before the Breakdown (Reprise)," "Wallflower," "Defense," "Shut Up and Cheer," "IDK," and "The Breakdown." The skrelting proffered by Wonu Ogunfowora, Lauren Zakrin, MiMi Scardulla, Sydney Parra, Zoe Jensen, and the rest of the cast ensures that these songs are all more than just entertaining. Each of these talented and capable singers makes these tracks memorable and tunes that your heart will ruminate on for some time.
Peer past the shimmering pop sheen and the cloying smiles of Giles Corey High School's cheerleaders and you'll discover a lot of heart, sincerity, and terrifying truth lurking behind the surface of these adolescents on the brink of adulthood. Their stripes and fangs are on full display, and each tiger is more than ready to bite. But, don't be afraid to get swept away by the bops and beats as long as you're willing to listen to and reflect on these well-crafted stories. There's definitely more here than meets the eye.