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Now Playing: 'Resurrection', London 'Game' & 'Jazz Train'

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Jekyll and Hyde: ResurrectionGlobalVision Records

When I requested this disc, I did so more out of a sense of duty than personal interest, having never really taken to Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse's musical version of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel.  To my great surprise, this new recording of Jekyll and Hyde, with new orchestrations and arrangements by Jeremy Roberts, has made me something of a "Jekyll" convert.  In this new version, which is what was used for concert performances of the musical, the piece has been stripped down to its 3 principals:  the doctor, and the two women in his life, Lucy and Emma.  

Working as a sort of oratorio, it's possible to follow most of the action of the piece, and what Roberts has done is to shift the musical focus of "Jekyll" so that it sounds, at least to this listener, a little like the concept recordings of
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice shows such as "Superstar" and Evita.  You'll still hear Wildhorn's sweeping melodies on this new recording but there are terrific rock embellishments throughout, primarily Alex Skolnick's captivating guitar riffs and on three tracks, drummer Chris Jago's compelling contributions.

Playing the dual lead on the "Resurrection" recording is Rob Evan, who, having played the role over 600 times on Broadway, uses his powerful voice with both authority and delicacy.  This is particularly true when he delivers the show's most well-known number (if for no other reason it seemed to play every morning in television commercials when "Jekyll" was still playing on Broadway).  What's most impressive with this song is that Evan manages to make its repetitions build dramatically.

Alongside Evan is Broadway veteran
Kate Shindle, who is in fine voice throughout.  For me, the highpoint of her performance comes early on though with Lucy's "Bring on the Men," in which she teases with vocal aplomb.  (Roberts' work in this number is particularly deft as well, he manages to make the melody sound simultaneously period and contemporary).

Rounding out the cast is Brandi Burkhardt, playing Emma.  Burkhardt is a terrific find; she can be a dynamic belter in both the Broadway and pop traditions.  Burkhardt's given the one new Wildhorn-Bricusse creation for "Resurrection" – a powerhouse ballad "If You Only Knew."

For dedicated fans of Jekyll and Hyde, "Resurrection" will be a "must-have" no matter what reviewers might say.  For others, who like me have never been true "Jekkies," well, what can I say?  I find this disc, which Leslie Bricusse describes in liner notes as being "Frank's rock 'n' roll baby, perhaps closer in character than any of its predecessors to the original musical concept lurking deep inside Frank's Jekyll-and-Hydean split personality musical soul," the most successful of all the "Jekyll" recordings, and one that will probably win a more than a few converts.

The Pajama Game and The Jazz Train – Sepia Records

The British label Sepia continues to be a terrific source for reasonably priced compact disc transfers of Original London Cast recordings.  In addition to the songs recorded by original cast members, Sepia often rounds out its discs with terrific bonus material – either other recordings of songs from the show in question or simply other material recorded by remembers of the original cast.  Such is the case for both The Pajama Game and The Jazz Train releases. 

Given that we've just had the new recording of "Pajama" with the Roundabout Theatre Company cast led by Harry Connick, Jr. and Kelli O'Hara, you might wonder if another recording is necessary.  For my money, this British recording with Edmund Hockridge and Joy Nichols in the leads is sort of a must-have, if for no other reason than it's another way of enjoying the original Don Walker orchestrations for the show.

In terms of the cast, both Hockridge and Nichols deliver powerfully as Sid Sorokin and Babe Williams.  Interestingly, Max Wall, playing Hines is billed above Hockridge, and this comic star doesn't disappoint in Hines' "I'll Never Be Jealous Again."  The show's fourth 'star' – billed just below Hockridge – is Elizabeth Seal, who is quite a joy in both "Steam Heat" and "Hernando's Hideaway."

On the "Pajama" disc, Sepia has selected ten tracks of other songs recorded by leading lady Nichols.  I'd never thought about wanting tunes like "The Hippopotamus Song" or "Froggie and the Catfish" digitally remastered, but Nichols' delivery of songs like these, and others, such as "I Talk to the Trees," are heartfelt and rather beautiful.

As for the other release from Sepia, selections from The Jazz Train (produced in 1955), well, this is a disc you buy for the bonus material.  "Train" is sort of a grandfather to
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express with songs like "Holy Roller Car" and "Minstrel Car," as the show, a revue, delineated the evolution of African-Americans in the U.S. through song.  There are 13 numbers on the 8 tracks that are the selections from "Train" – and the standout is "Bessie Smith Blues" delivered with gusto by Bertice Reading.

You'll find an additional four songs from Reading in the disc's bonus section – each of which is a blues-y joy.  The remaining 16 bonus tracks feature performances by Marie Bryant, Elizabeth Welch, and The Peters Sisters.  Here, some personal favorites are Bryant's exuberant "Ain't Misbehavin'", a comic number, "Alibis," delivered marvelously by Welch and the Peters' Sisters spirited take on "S'Wonderful."
   


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Andy Propst is founder of AmericanTheaterWeb.com (ATW), a nationally recognized theatrical news and production database. In addition to his writing for and editing of ATW, (read more...)