GRAMMYS 2019: Meet This Year's Nominees for Best Musical Theater Album
The Grammy Awards, airing this Sunday, February 10th, at 8pm, have recognized five exceptional musical theatre cast albums as worthy of inclusion in their annual celebration of the year's best music. They range from original Broadway cast recordings to revival cast recordings to live concert recordings, and they all feature impressive vocal work from some of the theatre world's biggest and brightest stars.
Let's meet the nominees!
THE BAND'S VISIT is our first nominee, and, dare I say, frontrunner for a win. The original Broadway cast recording features music by David Yazbek (also known for the music from criminally underrated Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Full Monty) and gorgeous performances from Katrina Lenk, Ari'el Stachel, Tony Shaloub, Adam Cantor, and more. The Broadway production won ten out of its eleven nominated Tony Awards--including best original score for Yazbek and acting wins for Lenk, Stachel, and Shaloub--and was universally acclaimed by audiences and critics. The Band's Visit tells the story of an Egyptian military band who get lost on their way to an Arab cultural center and end up stuck in a tiny, desert town in the middle of Israel. It's about compassion, difference, and togetherness, and it's positively beautiful. Standout tracks from the album include Lenk's sweeping ballad "Omar Sharif" and climactic closing number "Answer Me," featuring Adam Cantor's gorgeous baritone.
Next, there's the 2018 revival of Rogers & Hammerstein's CAROUSEL, featuring a powerhouse vocal cast including Joshua Henry, Jessie Mueller, Lindsay Mendez, and opera star Renee Fleming. The beloved golden age musical brought in two Tonys this past year--a win for Mendez as featured actress in a musical and for Justin Peck's innovative new choreography--and had a very successful run before closing on Broadway this past September. Carousel is about young lovers Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan--their lives marred with tragedy, it is a story of redemption and unconditional love. It is one of the most famous and beloved musicals of all time, and this cast album gives no reason to think differently. Highlights include Henry's gorgeous "Soliloquy" and Fleming's "You'll Never Walk Alone," which I feel could bring a tear to the most unbelieving eye.
We leave Broadway for a minute here to discuss our next nominee: the live, concert recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber's JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. With an all-star cast including John Legend, Sara Bareilles, Alice Cooper, and RENT LIVE's future stand-out Brandon Victor Dixon, this live production changed the game for what these live musicals could accomplish. Presented semi-staged (but mostly like a biblically-proportioned rock concert), Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert was nearly universally acclaimed after it aired. The story of the days leading up to Judas' betrayal and Jesus' crucifixion has been a staple of musical theatre since its premiere in 1970. With a cast and a score like this, it's nearly impossible to pick highlights--but, say what you will about John Legend as an actor, his "Gethsemane" is perfection. Anything Brandon Victor Dixon sings is also worth listening to immediately ("Heaven on Their Minds" is, uh, perfect). This is coming from somebody who once made fun of Andrew Lloyd Webber to his face, so take that as you will.
MY FAIR LADY, another beloved golden age musical, is nominated for its revival cast album this year. With gorgeous work from Lauren Ambrose, Henry Hadden-Paton, and Norbert Leo Butz, among others, this cast album breathes fresh air into an already near-perfect score--and is just as fun to listen to as it is to watch. My Fair Lady, the classic story of cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle's ascent to high society, may not hold up politically, but it definitely holds up musically. If you love Norbert (which I do, and you should) you've got to listen to his "Get Me to the Church on Time" right now. Another highlight is Ambrose's sweet "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?," featuring some gorgeous three-part harmony at the beginning from members of the ensemble.
Last, but absolutely not least, we have the cast recording from Michael Arden's acclaimed revival of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND--the Ahrens & Flaherty hit about a young girl, Ti Moune, and her attempts to find love on an island governed by Gods with huge personalities and egos who are trying to stop that from happening. The brilliant cast of the Tony-award winning best revival, which just closed last month, included Haley Kilgore, Lea Salonga, Alex Newell, and Tamyra Gray, among many talented others. Standout songs from the recording include Newell's jubilant "Mama Will Provide" and the chill-inducing, God-introducing opening number "We Dance."
This Sunday, live from STAPLES Center, and hosted by Alicia Keys, is the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards. The event will be broadcast in HDTV and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT.
No matter what happens on Sunday, we can celebrate five immaculate musical theatre albums and listen to them forever and ever on!