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CD/DVD 'BLITZ' REVIEWS PART 1: THE SHOWS

It's finally here! The jam-packed end-of-season roundup of CDs from our very own Naomi Plume (so big, it had to be put into two parts)...The good, the bad, the ugly...or to quote from the ad for the upcoming musical A TALE OF A TWO CITIES... "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times." We're so glad that we got to use that line first!

So enjoy this very special two-parter - happy reading, happy listening, happy buying (or not) and good luck to everyone at the TONY Awards on Sunday night from all of us at BroadwayWorld.com.

PASSING STRANGE
Live From The Belasco Theatre
Original Broadway Cast Recording
Ghostlight Records

4 and 1/2 discs (out of 5)

STEW and his "posse" have brought one of the most original shows seen in years, to Broadway … and it was not an instant journey – coming via Berkeley Repertory Theatre and The Public Theater.  It took a lot of Producers to bring it to the Belasco. Lucky US!  With music by STEW and Heidi Rodewald and book and lyrics by STEW, it might seem as jolting to the "landscape" as when HAIR came along … this show sticks with you LONG after you see it and does not follow any conventional formula you might expect at a Broadway Musical. Hearing the recording makes it resonate even more solidly and strongly – the REASON you BUY a Cast Recording in the first place … to relive the experience.   See the show!  Buy the recording!  A breath of fresh air.  My only wonder is whether or not this needed to be recorded live.  The night I saw it the crowd was MUCH wilder than is heard on this recording.  Oh well ….


In The Heights
Ghostlight Records
5 discs (out of 5)

The Original Broadway Cast Recording of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes' In The Heights was produced by Andres Levin and Kurt Deutsch.  Hats go off to these two and the show's producers for giving us a TWO-DISC SET!  Also enclosed in the deluxe packaging is a generous booklet of photos, with song lyrics, and some nice Liner Notes by Thomas Kail, the show's Director.  It's the "favorite" going into the TONY AWARDS on Sunday night, and one of the few categories that could go into "upset" if you have been reading and listening to all the "theorizing" going around "out there."  The glory story of this show is The Producers' commitment to bring it to Broadway – even after a "full-range" of reviews for last season's Off-Broadway run.  Audiences are eating up this show and its homespun freshness, with the show's writer, Lin-Manuel, in the lead role.  The recording will put a smile on your face. Joyous!


XANADU
On Broadway

PS Classics
5 discs (out of 5)

I have to start this review by simply saying that (in NO particular order) Cheyenne Jackson,Mary Testa, Jackie Hoffman,Tony Roberts and Christopher Ashley were all ROBBED by not getting TONY nominations.  That out of the way … this was the "sleeper" hit of the season and this recording, produced by Jeffrey Lesser, is just as much fun as the show is.  This adaptation of the Universal film was a surprise to everyone who saw it when it first began previewing and became an instant "word-of-mouth" HIT!  Douglas Carter Beane's shrewd take on the original Electric Light Orchestra, Jeff Lynne, John Farrar songs and how he melded the story are just great.  A good Cast Recording will tell you the story through the songs – and this accomplishes just that.  Buy it – you won't be disappointed.  A great way to re-visit your fun theatrical experience or a perfect introduction to get ready to see it.  TALENT everywhere!!!!

The New Mel Brooks Musical
Young Frankenstein
Decca Broadway
1 disc (out of 5)

There's just no point in beating this show down any more than it already has been, but the Original Broadway Cast Recording reflects EXACTLY what is on the stage – not much.  It's recorded well and there's a lot of talent in the cast, but this is not something you want to hear over and over … not even the best song in the show (PUTTIN' ON THE RITZ – music and lyrics by Irving Berlin) impresses here.  As for Mel's contributions, only ONE song shines, HE VAS MY BOYFRIEND – and that's ONLY because Andrea Martin "delivers" this to the rafters.  Disappointing … but so is the show.



A Catered Affair
PS CLASSICS
5 discs (out of 5)

I believe the only reason A CATERED AFFAIR has been so "dumped on" is because it's such a low-key affair (no pun intended).  This show and its delicate score are quite beautiful and are an exercise in skill, subtlety and nuance.  The real problem is Broadway – and it's "all or nothing" stakes.  There should be plenty of room for this because one would have to be heartless to not respond to the beauty and simplicity here.  That said, this is a glowing recording and just as simple as the Saturday Evening Post-ish drawings that have been used to promote the show.  The cast is top-notch.  If you haven't seen it … don't let the opportunity slip by.  The recording is arrestingly beautiful with skillful performances by Faith Prince, Tom Wopat, Harvey Fierstein Leslie Kritzer, Matt Cavanaugh and the rest of the company.  Surrender.


SOUTH PACIFIC
The New Broadway Cast Recording
Masterworks Broadway

5 discs (out of 5)

Just when you thought your SOUTH PACIFIC section on the CD shelf was complete (with the latest Brian Stokes Mitchell/Reba McEntire/Paul Gemignani version on Decca Broadway) … along comes a recording of the Lincoln Center Theater production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein chestnut, directed by Bartlett Sher, to squeeze onto the shelf and to rock your world.  What a beautiful recording and, by the way, "chestnut" no longer.  This is a fantastic memento of a glorious staging and production, currently the "hottest" ticket in town.  I must say that there's never really been a bad recording of this particular musical, but in an era where everyone is always trying to re-orchestrate older musicals, the Robert Russell Bennett originals have never been recorded better, under the skillful baton of Ted Sperling.  There's something "un-showbiz" about this version and understated, which makes you listen more.  "Who can explain it ….?"  Top notch performances across the board and a huge welcome to Paulo Szot to the Broadway  community of leading men.  As for Kelli O'Hara, she seems to be a chameleon – with a gift for bringing "chemistry" to all her leading men.  Remember her with Harry Connick, Jr. in THE PAJAMA GAME or THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA with Matthew Morrison?

FORBIDDEN BROADWAY
Rude Awakening

DRG

5 discs (out of 5)

Gerard Alessendrini totally deserved the 2006 special TONY AWARD Honor.  This guy just doesn't stop … and certainly hasn't run out of grist for the mill!  This edition, Rude Awakening, of FORBIDDEN BROADWAY (and there are a number of them recorded and available) is one of his best. The live show was great (is great) and this cast of Valerie Fagan, James Donegan, Janet Dickinson,Jared Bradshaw,Jeanne Montano, et al. are just fantastic.  I don't want to give away any of the FUN.  You'll thoroughly enjoy listening to this and find yourself laughing unexpectedly.  Also, catch FORBIDDEN BROADWAY (ANY EDITION) LIVE … when-ever and where-ever you can!!!


ADDING MACHINE
World Premiere Recording

PS Classics

5 discs (out of 5)

What is it about musicals that either they "work" or they don't? It's really that simple.  This one shouldn't work … and does.  Writers Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith have taken the 1923 expressionistic play by Elmer Rice and created a dazzling musical.  The eye-popping physical production was directed by David Cromer and this recording is mesmerizing.  You may not even know about this show, but it is eclectic and dizzying in its originality and, if you're lucky enough to live in New York or plan to visit soon, you can see it at Off-Broadway's Minetta Lane Theatre.  Listen before you go or buy the CD after you see the show.  Now THIS is original and exciting.

TAKE FLIGHT
Original London Cast Recording

PS Classics

1 disc (out of 5)

TAKE FLIGHT just never takes off.  I know that seems like a "cheap shot," but it's true.  You may or may not have heard about this new musical.  It almost got a staging "stateside" this year, but has been postponed.  This recording is of the production done last summer at the Menier Chocolate Factory, in England, where Broadway's current incarnation of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE came from.  No such luck.  The musical, with a book by the skilled John Weidman and a score by the beloved Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire just doesn't fly …. I know, "cheap" again.  I'll try to explain.  The show tries to weave multiple stories of pioneers in aviation – The Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart.  A good cast recording will yield some storyline and I just couldn't make sense of it.  There are song titles like, "Earthbound", "Sky" and "Equilibrium."  You get it … right?  Interestingly, it starts out really promising – almost Sondheim-esque … but fizzles.  Will certainly not yield any great audition songs like "The Story Goes On", from BABY or "If I Sing", from CLOSER THAN EVER.

Disney's The Little Mermaid
Original Broadway Cast Recording

Disney

4 and 1/2 discs (out of 5)

This Cast Recording has a walloping 29 tracks … on ONE disc.  That's a lot … too much ?!  Not only have the film songs moved to the stage, but additional songs and music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater.  This now famous addition to the Disney canon on Broadway, was directed by Francesca Zambello and folks can argue 'til they turn blue about how well it does or does not translate to the stage.  The story, however, is still great and so are the tunes, although it's now a bit overloaded.  So, it depends on who you ask … but, trust me, you won't hear any kids complaining.  The cast is dedicated and solid.  The album is thoroughly enjoyable.

 


Blue Man Group
How To Be A Megastar LIVE!

CD/DVD
Rhino
 
CD
2 discs (out of 5)
DVD 5 discs (out of 5)
 
This is jam-packed folks.  If you're a Blue Man Group fan ... buy this immediately.  If you've never seen them ... buy this immediately.  Who ever dreamed that a little Off-Broadway show created and co-founded by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink would turn into a world phenomenon?  It's all here to show you  why and the how.  The reason I gave the CD only 2 discs is simply that this is a visual experience ... especially the humor.  It's like listening to CIRQUE DU SOLEIL recordings .... right?  All right ... if YOU like listening to CIRQUE recordings ... fine with me. This beautifully packaged set is a sure thing.  Get it.  Makes a great gift, too. Good Bonus Features.

CRY-BABY
The Musical

Original Broadway Cast Recording 

I know …. It doesn't exist, BUT I wish it did because I think some of the songs are good, particularly "Screw Loose" and "Girl, Can I Kiss You …? And a few others.  David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger delivered some fresh fun and I REALLY wish there was a cast album so that I could play "A Little Upset" over and over … one of the best dance numbers ever seen on Broadway.  Oh well … a girl can dream … can't she?


GYPSY
The Latest Cast Recording

Time/Life
 

I know … it's not out yet, but TONY voters got an advance (not final mix) listen and so did "I" one day, totally by accident, while driving in my car and listening to XM Broadway.  They called it a "first-listen" or something like "We got it first – exclusive."  Well … I pulled right over to concentrate.  I hear "Together, Wherever We Go" and "Rose's Turn."  Sounds like it will have to be another addition to the collection.  It is currently scheduled to be released in August.



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PRE-TONY CD/DVD 'BLITZ' PART 2 REVIEWS:
THE SINGERS...AND MORE

 

 


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