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BWW CD Reviews: THE MAN WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS (Original Studio Cast Recording) is Old-Fashioned Musical Fun

BWW CD Reviews: THE MAN WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS (Original Studio Cast Recording) is Old-Fashioned Musical Fun
Cover art courtesy of Take-the Cakeable Records.

In 2002, CBS introduced audiences nationwide to A.C. Gilbert with their holiday film The Man Who Saved Christmas, which starred Jason Alexander. This year, Ron Lytle released the original studio cast recording to his musical THE MAN WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS: A NEW OLD-FASHIONED MUSICAL. Like the made for TV CBS film, the World War I set musical is based on the true story of A.C. Gilbert. However, Ron Lytle tells the heartwarming holiday tale with splashy, old-fashioned Broadway tunes. The mirthful spirit of the production is captured on the recording, which left me curious to see the musical staged.

Unless it is a high-budget Broadway revival being recorded, we don't often get to hear the catchy and vibrant aural landscapes that made the Golden Age of Broadway glitter. However, with THE MAN WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS (Original Studio Cast Recording), Ron Lytle is taking listeners back to that bygone era. This choice works two-fold: 1.) the antiquated orchestrations sound novel compared to modern Broadway compositions, and 2.) they capture that hustle and bustle of the early 20th century, which is when the show is set. Simply put, Ron Lytle's score conjures up images of large Broadway choruses hoofing and tapping their way to glory. Moreover, the music is the big star of the album, so the lyrics only service the plot progression and let us know the motivations of the characters.

Because of its old school charm and appeal, the songs work together to create a collective score that is amiable and leaves listeners feeling good. Yet, there are not many standout moments or songs that feel like they could exist outside of the confines of the work. Ryan Drummond, as the charismatic newspaper reporter Johnny Eli, is affable on the album. He makes numbers likes "Nice Lady," "A New Man," and "No More Love Songs" fun to hear. In that same vein, Melissa O'Keefe sings Alice Finch with an adorable zeal, makes the numbers she lends her voice to clip along, and she steals the show with her bubbly take on her solo "It's Very Dangerous." As G.C. Gilbert, Chris Vettel sings with genial vibrancy, and makes numbers like "Dream a Dream" and "You and Me" come to life. Nevertheless, where the album finds it wings is in the big show numbers like "I Think I Think" and "For America!," where listeners can picture those singing and/or the ensemble hoofing with the razzle-dazzle steps from decades past.

With a surtitle like "A New Old-Fashioned Musical," Ron Lytle clearly knows that THE MAN WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS is a schmaltzy throwback to the American blockbusters and pot-boilers from the first half of the 20th century. This album is full of joy that radiates from the heart, but it doesn't try to be anything more than what it is-entertainment for the sake of being entertaining. Unfortunately, even though I appreciate the effort and the end product, I just don't think this score has enough pizzazz to find a prosperous life on Broadway. But, I'd wager that it'd do really well in a comfortable Off-Broadway house and in esteemed regional theaters.

Take-The Cakeable Records digitally released THE MAN WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS (Original Studio Cast Recording) on November 18, 2014. It can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. For more information about the album and the show itself, please visit http://www.themanwhosavedchristmas.com

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From This Author David Clarke

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