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BWW Review: Broadway Records' FRANKIE! THE MUSICAL (Studio Cast Recording) is Mostly Bubbly

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BWW Review: Broadway Records' FRANKIE! THE MUSICAL (Studio Cast Recording) is Mostly Bubbly

Recently, Broadway Records released FRANKIE! THE MUSICAL (Studio Cast Recording). The bubbly album is made up of highlights from the new musical, features music and lyrics by teen writer Elise Marra, and it stars Caitlin Kinnunen, who is best known for playing Emma Nolan in THE PROM on Broadway.

Inspired by events from Marra's life, the musical tells the story Frankie, a teen lesbian who is struggling with her own coming of age. Frankie is forced into adulthood prematurely when she must stand in for her mentally checked-out mother and help raise her sisters. Her complicated relationships inside and outside her home become more muddled when a mysterious illness sneaks in and leaves Frankie having to relearn how to walk.

Despite the heaviness of the subject matter, much of Marra's music and lyrics for FRANKIE! THE MUSICAL sparkle with equal parts effervescence and hope. The indomitable spirit of the titular character is made manifest in the opening number and resonates across the entire recording. Despite Frankie being the musical's lead, the emotional center of the musical is given to Cindy, Frankie's mom, in the heartrending ballad "You're Home," which is about her adopting Frankie's one or both of sisters to complete their family.

With the same emotional sincerity that she used to create Emma Nolan, Kinnunen brings to life a fully realized, multifaceted lesbian teenager in Frankie. Kinnuen vacillates between her dulcet, earthy vocal instrument, which emphasizes Frankie's rushed maturity, and a vibrant, child-like nasal resonance, which highlights the tangible qualities of hope and aspiration that give Frankie the strength to push through the hardships of her life.

Autumn Hurlbert tackles the role of Cindy, Frankie's mom, with gusto. Her touching rendition of "You're Home" lands perfectly, and the sheer force of her anger on "I'll Get Mad" is blistering. Frankie's father, Adrian, is voiced with palpable heart by Jason SweetTooth Williams. Jason Gotay as Evan, Allie Trimm as Karina / Edna, and Delphi Borich as Josephina / Khun Mae all lend their talents to the album, helping to flesh out the snippets of story presented on the 31 minute record.

Overall, the album works; however, one aspect of the record can be quite off putting. Under the direction of Joe Barros and possibly the music direction of Benjamin Weiss, Kinnunen, Hurlbert, and especially Trimm all favor nasal singing and lowering their soft palates, which reduces the openness of their individual vocal instruments. It seems to be a directorial choice to highlight youthfulness with Kinnunen and Trimm and the hurt and angry emotions with Hurlbert. Unfortunately, the end result can be quite grating as the timbre of the voices becomes screechy, especially when they layer on top of one another in chords.

Broadway Records' FRANKIE! THE MUSICAL (Studio Cast Recording) offers an inside look into a new musical from a young but promising composer and lyricist. Hopefully, in a post COVID-19 world, this musical can find life on multiple stages, allowing its story to find an audience and resonate with people around the world.

FRANKIE! THE MUSICAL (Studio Cast Recording) is available at Broadway Records' web store, Apple Music, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold and streamed.

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