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BWW Album Review: WITNESS UGANDA (AN AMERICAN MUSICAL) Features Beautiful Vocals and Accessible Lyrics

Catchy musical hooks and rhythms accompany a surprisingly universal of its story.

BWW Album Review: WITNESS UGANDA (AN AMERICAN MUSICAL) Features Beautiful Vocals and Accessible Lyrics

To be totally frank, I had never heard of WITNESS UGANDA (AN AMERICAN MUSICAL) until its concept album appeared in my inbox for review. I was hesitant to listen to the project, fearing that the story of someone on a voluntary mission to Uganda would be too preachy for my tastes. To my delight, the musical - as presented by Sony Masterworks Broadway on WITNESS UGANDA (AN AMERICAN MUSICAL) - surprised me with its catchy musical hooks and rhythms, gorgeous vocal performances, and the universality of its story despite its Biblical references.

In case you're unfamiliar with the project, WITNESS UGANDA features a book and score by Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould. The musical is inspired by true events, telling the story of Matthews' volunteer mission to Uganda, where he becomes friendly with a group of teenage students and finds a community where he and the other students didn't expect to find one. The story deals with themes of distrust of one's family and friends, forging and fortifying one's own self, the value of authentic friendships, and the power of chosen family, among others.

The drama and tension of "Prologue" is an instant hook to draw the listener in. The energy that radiates from "Kyussa" is tangible and impossible not to dance along with. Then, the heart of the show is revealed in the tender and engaging 'I Want' number "Circle," which is performed with heartrending honesty by Matthews. Whether you identify as a member of the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities or not, Matthews' longing for finding a circle that sees him and accepts him for everything he is is something everyone can identify with.

As the album continues to unfold, beautiful vocals are paired with accessible lyrics to ensure the listener remains engaged and can follow the basics of WITNESS UGANDA's plot. There is an unmistakable contemporary pop ambiance that is pervasive across the album. Because of this, the album definitely feels more like musical theater for the masses than a piece of high, elevated art. This is not a detriment to the show, but it doesn't allow this powerfully poignant story to stick with you once the album is over.

Stand out tracks include the lush "Beautiful," with its exploration of finding the beauty of wherever you are on your individual journey; "Fall," which explores the pressures we face because of our various appearances; the gorgeously haunting "I Have a Lover (Jacob)," with its pairing of Christian religious tropes with homoromantic longings; the gut-wrenching "Survival," where Kameron Richardson breaks the heart of listeners describing the sacrifices necessary to simply live; Jai'Len Josey's ethereal performance on the resonant "I'd Cross the Blue;" and the sheer beauty of Cynthia Erivo's decadent vocal instrument on "Holy Spirit." Additionally, every moment where Ledisi chants on the album is stunning and remarkable.

Available everywhere now, WITNESS UGANDA (AN AMERICAN MUSICAL) features 24 songs from the show, and it does its job of making listeners want to see the musical in performance. One can only hope that this album lands in the laps of producers who will ensure that many get to experience this show live.



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BWW Album Review: WITNESS UGANDA (AN AMERICAN MUSICAL) Features Beautiful Vocals and Accessible Lyrics
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As presented by Sony Masterworks Broadway on WITNESS UGANDA (AN AMERICAN MUSICAL), the musical surprised me with its catchy musical hooks and rhythms, gorgeous vocal performances, and the universality of its story despite its Biblical references.