Take Home Broadway! – Even Tony Winners; and What about Sir John Gielgud and Bette Davis
By Ellis Nassour
The Tony and Drama Desk Awards have come and gone, there’ve been winners and not-winners in the Musical categories. It was a season of great scores – one for the books with 10 musicals opening. Being avid theatergoers, you no doubt have seen all the shows. Now, you can take a few cast albums home to rekindle memories again and again. All are quite reasonably-priced, with a SRP of less than $20.
In addition, there are Off Broadway cast albums and reissues of two long-out-print classics by two giants of the entertainment world – and news of more to come.
Fun Home (PS Classics), reissued and updated. Five-time Tony nominee Jeanine Tesori and three-time Tony nominee Lisa Kron’s intimate and poignant Tony-winning Best musical, book, and score [a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize], had a slew more of Bests: Actor, Michael Cerveris; Director, Sam Gold – and nominations: Actress, Beth Malone; Featured Actress, Sydney Lucas, Emily Skeggs, and Judy Kuhn; and Orchestrations, John Clancy. The album features new material written for the Broadway production, as well as additional material not included on the original recording. The 27 tracks include "It All Comes Back," "Come to the Fun Home," "Ring of Keys," "Days and Days," "Edges of the World," and "Flying Away."
The King and I (Decca Broadway) – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical won Tony and DDs for Best Revival. Tony Award winner Kelli O’Hara, Tony and Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe, Tony winner Ruthie Ann Miles, Ashley Park, and Conrad Ricamora star in the stunning LCT production. Who cares if it’s – how does that oft seen screen credit read: loosely based on a real story. 18 tracks, including "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Hello, Young Lovers," "Getting to Know You," "We Kiss in a Shadow," "Something Wonderful," one of R&H’s most finely-crafted tunes "I Have Dreamed," and a four-minute plus rendition of "Shall We Dance?"
On the Town (PS Classics, deluxe two-disc set) – Please stand for the national anthem, just as audiences are asked to do on Broadway at this rousing nominee, which premiered in 1944. It was nominated for Best Revival [the third and, in review after review, considered best yet]. Join three sailors on 24-hour shore leave conquer our helluva town from the Bronx, which is up, and the Battery, which is down: Tony nominee Tony Yazbeck, Jay Armstrong Johnson, and Clyde Alves as they attempt to find the perfect gal – hitting on Megan Fairchild, Alysha Umphress, and DD nominee Elizabeth Stanley. Bernstein/Camden and Green classics are played by a 28-piece orchestra (music director James Moore): "New York, New York", the ballet "Lonely Town", "Lucky to Be Me," "I Can Cook, Too" and Bernstein’s "Some Other Time." Director John Rando doesn’t waste a New York minute keeping everything moving in quick step.
An American in Paris, (Masterworks Broadway), keeps the classic George and Ira Gershwin score from the Oscar-winning film but partially reimagines the book. It earned 13Tony nods, including Best Musical, Actor and Actress for exquisite dancers Robert Fairchild [DD Award for Outstanding Actor] and Leanne Cope and Featured Actors Brandon Uranowitz [chanelling the acerbic Oscar Levant from the film] and Max von Essen. It won director Christopher Wheeldon a Choreography Tony and DD; and Tonys for orchestrators Christopher Austin, Bill Ellitott, and Don Sebesky. Rob Fisher is musical supervisor. Jill Paice channels the brilliant Nina Foch [from the film] as the calculating and seductive other woman. 17 tracks, including "I Got Rhythm," "The Man I Love, "They Can’t Take That Away from Me," "Liza," "’S Wonderful," "But Not For Me," "I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise," and title tune.
On the Twentieth Century (PS Classics, two discs) – Nominated for Best Revival, Actress, Featured Actor (Andy Karl). Who could have thought that anyone could almost erase the indelible mark Madeline Kahn [or even Carole Lombard in the classic 1934 scatterbrain romp] made in the Coleman/Comden and Green 1978 original [sadly she was out of the show in less than two and a half months, but supremely replaced by Judy Kaye], but Kristin Chenoweth soars [winning a DD], with manic support from Peter Gallagher as a down on his luck Broadway producer [the great John Barrymore in the film], abetted by Michael McGrath, Mary Louise Wilson, and Mark Linn Baker. Snappy direction by Scott Ellis. A first class recording, which includes the entire score. 36 tracks, including intro dialogue that almost puts you in a theatre seat, the rousing overture, "I Rise Again," "I’ve Got It All," "Life Is Like a Train," "Never" and "Our Private World."
Something Rotten! (Ghostlight Records) [Digital album available; in stores July 17], Grammy winner Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell’s "uproarious dose of pure Broadway fun and an irresistible ode to musicals," with so many insider sight gag homages that you lose count, on how desperation to write a hit play led to tunes creeping into Shakespearean-era plays and gave birth to musicals – and the chorus line. It received Tony and DD-nominations for Musical, its creators, director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw, and actors Brian d’Arcy James, Christian Borle, and the amazing Brad Oscar. Borle captured a Featured Tony and DD as Renaissance star playwright, The Bard. The outstanding cast includes John Cariani, hilarious Peter Bartlett, who certainly knows how to deliver a line, Brooks Ashmanskas, and Heidi Blickenstaff. 18 tracks, highlighted by rousing opening number "Welcome to the Renaissance" and the addictive "A Musical," which no doubt has already become a theater standard.
There are cast CDs of DD nominees Jason Robert Brown and Andrew Bergman’s Honeymoon in Vegas (UMe), a terrific audience-pleaser, highlighted by Rob McClure’s manic comic turn and the opening number he dominates, "I Love Betsy" and the scene-stealing antics of DD-nominated veteran star Nancy Opel, that deserved a much longer life [co-star Tony Danza will do the national tour]; Gigi (DMI Records); and Dr. Zhivago (Broadway Records).
Dropping July 10 is the Broadway original cast CD of John Doyle’s’ reimagined, abridged production of Kander and Ebb’s The Visit (Yellow Sound/Broadway Records), a tale of romance, seduction, betrayal, and revenge adapted by Tony-nominated Terrence McNally from the Dürrenmatt satirical classic as adapted by Maurice Valency, which was Tony-nominated for Best Musical with a nod, of course, for Chita Rivera. The score is highlighted by "Love and Love Alone" and "I Would Never Leave You."
August will see the digital release of Brian Hargrove and Barbara Anselmi’s comedy set against the complicated scenario of a wedding, It Shoulda Been You (Ghostlight), with the hard copy out September 18. Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, Lisa Howard, Sierra Boggess, Montego Glover, Chip Zien, Josh Grisetti, David Burtkat, and Edward Hibbert compete in the high jinks.
DD-nominated Matthew Morrison, the co-star with Kelsey Grammer of the Broadway blockbuster Finding Neverland, heads a roster of pop-music stars performing songs from the musical (Republic). 15 tracks performed by Christina Aguilera, Bon Jovi, Paloma Faith, the Goo Goo Dolls, and, among others, Nick Jonas. Highlights: "If the World Turned Upside Down," "Believe," "We Own the Night," "Circus of Your Mind," and "Stronger."
Off Broadway cast CDs include Daniel Aukin (Bad Jews, 4,000 Miles) and Itamar Moses’ Public Theater production of The Fortress of Solitude (Ghostlight), "a coming-of-age story about 1970s Brooklyn and beyond – of black and white, soul and rap, block parties and blackouts, friendship and betrayal, comic books and 45s" based on Jonathan Lethem’s best-seller, with music and lyrics by music and lyrics by Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson). The cast of 17 includes Ken Barnett, Kyle Beltran, Adam Chanler-Berat, Andre De Shields, and Kevin Mambo. 24 tracks, Highlights: "The One I Remember," "Superman/Sidekick," and "If I Had Known Then (What I Know Now)."
Just released is the first cast recording of DD-nominated for Outstanding Revival Bill Russell (Side Show), Frank Kelly, and Albert Evans’ Pageant (Jay Records), [based on a concept by Robert Longbottom (director/choreographer of the original Side Show) is set at a unique beauty pageant as contestants vie for the title of Miss Glamouresse. DD nominee John Bolton (A Christmas Story), as host Frankie Cavalier, attempts to keep things (jealousies, hissy fits) under control. Nick Cearley, Nic Cory, Alex Ringler, Marty Thomas, Seth Tucker, and Curtis Wiley vie for the tiara. Songs include "Natural Born Females" and "Something Extra."
Also available, just ahead of the revival on Broadway, the West End cast recording of the Off Broadway smash Dames at Sea, starring Sheila White as optimistic showgirl Ruby. Available as Manufacture-on-Demand and digital download at www.MasterworksBroadway.com, and hard copy through Arkiv Music.
And these two rarities:
Sir John Gielgud, one of theater’s legendary actors with what has been termed "the most expressive, musical voice in the modern English theater," had enduring success touring 20 years and winning a Tony, Emmy, and Grammy in his one-man Shakespearean evening Ages of Man, selected excerpts from Shakespeare’s texts [Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Richard III, The Tempest, Winter’s Tale] that dramatized the arc of human experience, from life to death. Available as above, with hard copy to follow July 13.
Screen legend Bette Davis made a short-lived 1952 return to Broadway [90 performances] in, what else!, a charming and satirical musical revue Two’s Company by Vernon Duke, Sammy Cahn, and Ogden Nash – with special material from Sheldon Harnick, Horton Foote, and Peter DeVries – and choreography from no less than Jerome Robbins [can you imagine the rehearsal clashes when Robbins attempted to tell BD what to do!]. With song, dance, and comedy not her strong points, BD was in over her head, panicked (collapsing to SRO gasps opening night), and jumped ship. Co-stars were George S. Irving (Oklahoma!), [his wife] Maria Karnilova [Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, Zorba), David Burns (A Funny Thing…, Hello, Dolly), Nora Kaye, and Tina Louise. Davis high points: "Turn Me Loose on Broadway," "Just Like a Man." Comedian Hiram Sherman stole the show, which didn’t please the diva any, and went on to win a Tony. Available as above.
Coming July 13 in digital release are two Off-Broadway cast recordings: Howard Crabtree’s Whoop-Dee-Doo!, the 1993 all-male send-up of the Ziegfeld Follies; and Al Carmines and Maria Irene Fornes’ 1969 Promenade.