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BWW CD Reviews: Ghostlight Records' LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (Original Cast Recording) is Addictive and Clever

BWW CD Reviews: Ghostlight Records' LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (Original Cast Recording) is Addictive and Clever
Cover art courtesy of Ghostlight Records.

Last summer, The Public Theater, Michael Friedman, and Alex Timbers reunited to gift New York City with a free production of LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Like their BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, the team used brilliant and inspired anachronisms to make the Shakespearean comedy relevant for modern audiences. They also did it as a musical. Despite mixed reviews from the critics, audiences devoured the production with enthusiasm, and now Ghostlight Records has released the audaciously quirky LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (Original Cast Recording) for us all to enjoy.

The plot of LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST finds the King and his college chums vowing to abstain from women for several years while attending their five-year reunion. Just as they agree to this monastic lifestyle, four beautiful and smart women from their past enter the scene, forcing them to reconsider their pact. The comedy includes everything Elizabethan and modern audiences enjoy in madcap romantic comedies: romance, revelry, wit, true love, and coming of age. Most importantly, all of these cherished attributes are present in Michael Friedman's clever and hysterical songs.

Michael Friedman's work for LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST is instantly captivating. From the show's self-referential lines in "Prologue" to the intelligently sexy and sensual lyrics of "Love's a Gun" and the Elizabethan flairs of songs like "The King's Sonnet," "Dumaine's Sonnet," and "Longaville's Sonnet," Michael Friedman mixes modernity and the classical with a precision that leaves the listener joyously dumbstruck. I will admit that upon first listen I didn't know what I was getting myself into, having missed the performances in the park. I was confused by the jumps in musical styles and the ever-changing lyric tonality, but I was spectacularly entertained at the same time. Reading the liner notes helped me fill in the gaps that the recording has, and I have gleefully returned to the album many times. Like BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON before it, I cannot get enough of it.

There is not a bad song or bad performance on the disc. It flows well without a knowledge of the production, and it truly comes to effervescent life once you are familiar with how these songs fit into Alex Timbers' adapted book. By the time Daniel Breaker sings the giggle inducing "And readings of Elizabethan plays in their original uncut form without the addition of new and completely unnecessary songs" in "Prologue," audiences know they are in for one heck of a treat. And, it only gets better from there.

Even though every track is a favorite, some do standout above others. Justin Levine's seemingly out of nowhere ode to unexpected objects of affection "I Love Cats" is pristinely delivered with an awkward joie de vivre that delights. Caesar Samayoa's fervor on the Spanish-influenced "Jaquenetta" is snappy and fun. Colin Donnell charms with his wistful charisma on "Change of Heart." With the undeniable sultry zeal audiences love, Rebecca Naomi Jones makes "Love's a Gun" the track that is worth the entire price of the album alone. Bryce Pinkham, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Daniel Breaker, Caesar Samayoa, and mostly Colin Donnell make the coming of age reflective "Are You a Man?" a triumphant Broadway showstopper. Maria Thayer sings with emotive gusto on the bitter 10:55 number "Stop Your Heart." Then Patti Murin shines with poise and grace on the eleven o'clock romantic duet "I Don't Need Love" that is interrupted by the toe-tapping and joyous "The Tuba Song," sung by the whole company.

Moreover, there are other moments worth mention as well. In "Dumanie's Sonnet," Lucas Near-Verbrugghe impresses with a powerfully sung and long-sustained note at the end of the song. From the point of view of someone who has studied English literature and holds an M.A. in English literature, the musical tonality and lyrics for "Academia" couldn't be more perfect and enthralling. The gentle nod to Marvin Hamlisch's "One" from A CHORUS LINE during "Longaville's Sonnet" is a much-appreciated flair as well.

LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (Original Cast Album) features meticulously written music and lyrics, it is beautifully recorded, and it excellently captures the performances that entertained audiences with ease. The album stands as a celebration of modern American musicals and of Shakespeare as well. It's a bit different than what audiences may typically expect from a musical cast recording, but it draws the listener in and makes their heart and soul smile. This is one addictive disc I'm certain you'll be hooked on for quite some time.

Ghostlight Records digitally released LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (Original Cast Album) on June 3, 2014. Physical copies of the album were released on July 8, 2014. It can be purchased from Ghostlight Records' online store, iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold.

In conclusion, Free Shakespeare in the Park is one of the most important programs that The Public Theater provides. Over the last 50 years, more than 5 million people have enjoyed the free summer performances at the Delacorte. Later this month, The Public Theater will open its production of KING LEAR, starring John Lithgow and featuring Annette Bening and Jessica Hecht. For more information about this exciting production please click here.

For information about other theatrical recording releases, click here.

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