By Ellis Nassour
Award season has come and gone. There’ve been winners and not-winners in the Musical categories. It was a Broadway season for the books with 10 musicals opening. If you’ve seen the shows, you can take these cast albums home to rekindle memories. If you haven’t, you’ll discover some gems. All are quite reasonably-priced, with an SRP of less than $20.
Fun Home (PS Classics, Udated), 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 Broadway and material not included on the original CD. The 27 tracks include “It All Comes Back,” “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 winner Kelli O’Hara, Tony and Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe, Tony winner Ruthie Ann Miles, Ashley Park, and Conrad Ricamora star in the stunning Lincoln Center Theater production. Who cares if it’s 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 rendition of “Shall We Dance?”
On the Town (PS Classics, two-disc set) – Stand for the national anthem, just as audiences do at this rousing nominee, which premiered in 1944. This is the third revival , and its considered the best yet. Join three sailors on 24-hour shore leave and a girl-hunt as they do 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. The gals are Megan Fairchild, Alysha Umphress, and Drama Desk nominee Elizabeth Stanley. Bernstein/Camden and Green classics are done justice by a 28-piece orchestra : “New York, New York“, the ballet “Lonely Town”, “Lucky to Be Me,” “I Can Cook, Too” and Bernstein’s “Some Other Time.”
An American in Paris, (Masterworks Broadway), keeps the classic the Gershwins wrote for 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, Outstanding Actor] and Leanne Cope and Featured Actors Brandon Uranowitz [chanelling the film’s acerbic Oscar Levant] and Max von Essen. It won director Christopher Wheeldon a Choreography Tony and DD; and Tonys for orchestrations. Jill Paice, though no match for the film’s icy Nina Foch, is calculating and seductive as the other woman. 17 tracks, including “I Got Rhythm,” “The Man I Love,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,”
“’S Wonderful,” “But Not For Me,” and “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise.”
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 Cy Coleman/Comden and Green 1978 original, 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 hilarious Michael McGrath and Mary Louise Wilson. 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’ve Got It All,” “Life Is Like a Train,” “Never” and “Our Private World.”
Something Rotten (Ghostlight) [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 homages you lose count. The desperation to write a hit play leads to innovation: add tunes to Shakespearean-era plays. And you have the birth of musicals, not to mention chorus girls. 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 The Bard. The outstanding cast includes John Cariani and hilarious Peter Bartlett, who knows how to deliver a line. 18 tracks, highlighted by the rousing opener “Welcome to the Renaissance” and the addictive “A Musical,” which no doubt has already become a theater standard.
Dropping July 10 is the original cast CD of John Doyle’s’ reimagined, abridged production of Kander and Ebb’s The Visit (Broadway Records), Tony-nominated for Best Musical and, alas, their last collaboration. It’s a tale of romance, seduction, betrayal, and revenge adapted by Tony-nominated Terrence McNally from the Dürrenmatt satire as adapted by Maurice Valency. Venerable Chita Rivera received a Tony nod. 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, and Sierra Boggess compete in the high jinks.
Longtime Village resident Ellis Nassour is an author [Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline], arts journalist, and contributor to Playbill.