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Coming Soon: ‘Dreamgirls’ Original London Cast Recording

April 15th, 2017 Comments off

Ibinabo Jack, Liisi LaFontaine and Amber Riley in 'Dreamgirls.' (Photo: DreamgirlsWestEnd.com via The Broadway Blog.)

Ibinabo Jack, Liisi LaFontaine and Amber Riley in ‘Dreamgirls.’ (Photo: DreamgirlsWestEnd.com via The Broadway Blog.)

Masterworks Broadway proudly announces the release of the highly anticipated Original London Cast Recording of Dreamgirls. The new double album will be available via online retailers and streaming services April 28 (preorder available now), with the 2-CD set following May 12.

Recorded live in its entirety at the Savoy Theatre in London’s West End, the album captures the on-stage exhilaration of the original cast, the 14-piece band and audience. Dreamgirls’ legendary score features the unforgettable songs “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” I Am Changing,” “Listen” and “One Night Only.”

The Dreamgirls Original London Cast Recording is produced by composer Henry Krieger and mixed by Andy Bradfield. The cast recording features Amber Riley as Effie White, Liisi LaFontaine as Deena Jones and Ibinabo Jack as Lorrell Robinson—making up the soulful singing trio ‘The Dreams’; Joe Aaron Reid as Curtis Taylor Jr, Adam J. Bernard as Jimmy Early, Tyrone Huntley as C.C. White, Nicholas Bailey as Marty and Lily Frazer as Michelle Morris.

The long-awaited UK premiere of Dreamgirls opened at the Savoy Theatre in December 2016 to widespread critical acclaim, 35 years after originally opening on Broadway. It is directed and choreographed by Olivier and Tony Award-winning Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Disney’s Aladdin and Something Rotten!), with set design by Tim Hatley, costume design by Gregg Barnes, lighting design by Hugh Vanstone, sound design by Richard Brooker and hair design byJosh Marquette. The musical supervisor is Nick Finlow, the orchestrator is Harold Wheeler, with additional material by Willie Reale.

Dreamgirls transports audiences to a revolutionary time in American music history. It charts the tumultuous journey of a young female singing trio from Chicago called ‘The Dreams’, as they learn the hard lesson that show business is as tough as it is fabulous.

With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, opened in 1981 and subsequently won six Tony Awards. The original cast recording won two Grammy Awards for Best Musical Theater Album and Best Vocal Performance for Jennifer Holliday’s ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.’ In 2006 it was adapted into an Oscar winning motion picture starring Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx.

‘The Great Comet’ Invites Fans to Sing on Cast Recording

February 8th, 2017 Comments off

The Great Comet Broadway

The new Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, invites fans to be a part of the upcoming original Broadway cast recording.

The Great Comet is looking for fans to join creator Dave Malloy and members of the cast to sing group chorus sections and to play the show’s famous egg shakers for the original Broadway cast recording.  This special fan recording session will take place in midtown Manhattan on Monday, February 13 from 6:00pm – 7:30pm EST.  No purchase is necessary – to sign up, and receive the exact location, visit www.greatcometbroadway.com/castrecording

 

Review: Original Recording of “I’m Getting My Act Together…”

August 9th, 2016 Comments off

Masterworks Broadway

By Ryan Leeds

Gretchen Cryer (mother of television/80s movie star Jon Cryer) has an interesting tale to tell about her intimate, Off Broadway show, I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking it On the Road. In the liner notes, Cryer (book and lyrics) and composer Nancy Ford described an unfortunate meeting that the pair had with director Joseph Papp, the legendary founder of the Public Theater. After 10 days of rehearsal, Papp decided to cancel the show, citing a lack of humor as the main reason. Long story short: They convinced him to wait for three more days and Papp allowed the show to open. It was killed by the critics but surprisingly ran for seven months at the Public before moving to Circle in the Square where it ran for three years.

It’s not hard to understand why the critics were unkind. Even as the feminist movement was at its apex by the late 70s, I’m Getting My Act… (released this week from the archives by Masterworks Broadway) is mostly rife with clichés and lukewarm inspiration. It does, however, have some poignancy and some will enjoy this nostalgic trip down memory lane.

I’m Getting My Act… opens as Heather Jones (Cryers) rehearses a new act for her 39th birthday. She’s tired of living life to please everyone but herself. She’s got new material—and apparently wrinkles and gray hair—at 39! (Thank God lifespans have increased since 1978.) Nothing gives her more of a thrill than “singing with a rock and roll band” in “Natural High.”

She then remembers her younger days when she would “smile for daddy” in a waltz/vaudeville style number called “Smile.” The objectification of women continues with “Miss America”:

“Your husband’s out on business, his business is his life. He pretends to be your husband, you pretend to be his wife.”

As a recent divorcee, Heather picks herself up by the bootstraps in “Strong Woman Number,” which has the essence of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” or “I Am Woman (Hear Me Roar.)” Heather and her friends will not wait for love! They have their self-esteem. Heather then softens the militance with a song about her ex, “Dear Tom.” It is a touching and painful moment that recalls a love that simply could not be.

Video footage from the Encores! Off-Center production of “I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road,” starring Renée Elise Goldsberry.

While she tries out the new songs, her old friend and manager, Joe (Joel Fabiani) listens and she sings a song dedicated to him, “Old Friend.” It is another sweet moment that highlights the benefits of life-long platonic companionship.

“Put in a Package and Sold” decries the dating scene. “Lonely Lady” is the quintessential “poor me I’m so alone” song that Heather sings before rediscovering her “arms that can see and a voice that can sing a celebration of me” in “Happy Birthday.” Finally, Heather is ready to take on the world again—or at least take her act on the road—in a reprise of “Natural High”

Musically, there are elements of Hair, Pippin, Carole King and The Carpenters here. Cryer has a soothing and welcoming voice and her backup singers; Alice (Margot Rose) and Cheryl (Betty Aberlin) serve the music quite well.

I’m Getting My Act… offers a slice of history that may serve as remembrance for baby boomers who recall the original production. But it is also a reminder of who paved the road in song for the likes of Sex and The City, Girls and Inside Amy Schumer, and for that, Cryer and Ford deserve credit where credit is due.

 

Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook

 

 

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Don’t Miss: ‘She Loves Me’ Album Release at Barnes & Noble

July 22nd, 2016 Comments off
Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti in 'She Loves Me.' (Photo: Joan Marcus the The Broadway Blog.)

Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti in ‘She Loves Me.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus the The Broadway Blog.)

Ghostlight Records will celebrate the cast album of the critically acclaimed Broadway revival of She Loves Me with a special in-store performance and CD signing at Barnes & Noble on Wednesday, August 3 at 7:00 PM featuring Laura Benanti, Jane Krakowski and other cast members, featuring the show’s lyricist Sheldon Harnick as special guest. Barnes & Noble is located at 150 East 86th Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues on the Upper East Side. Fans who purchase the CD at the store will be offered priority seating. Please call (212) 369-2180 for details.

Physical copies of the album will be available online and in stores on Friday, July 29. The recording is currently available from iTunes and other digital formats. The hit production from Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes, Artistic Director) was nominated for eight 2016 Tony Awards including “Best Revival of a Musical,” as well as winning four Drama Desk Awards including “Outstanding Revival of a Musical” and the Outer Critics Circle Award for “Outstanding Revival of a Musical.”
The 28-page full-color booklet in a fold-out wallet package includes production photography, a synopsis and a message from Roundabout’s Todd Haimes. The 2016 Broadway Cast Recording of She Loves Me is produced by Kurt Deutsch, and co-produced and mixed by Lawrence Manchester. To order the album, please visit sh-k-boom.com/she-loves-me.

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Listen: ‘Be More Chill’ a New Musical

October 30th, 2015 Comments off

Be More ChillGhostlight Records and Two River Theater release the original cast recording of the new musical Be More Chill ( international digital release on Friday, November 13; with physical CDs in stores and online Friday, December 18).

Be More Chill, which recently had its world premiere in an extended run at Two River Theater, Red Bank, NJ, has music and lyrics by Joe Iconis, book by Joe Tracz, and is based on the novel by Ned Vizzini. The show was directed by Stephen Brackett with Chase Brock serving as choreographer. The orchestrator and musical supervisor was Charlie Rosen and the musical director and copyist was Nathan Dame. The Be More Chill cast album was produced by Kurt Deutsch, Joe Iconis and Charlie Rosen.

The song “Halloween” is available as a special “First Listen” free download at bemorechill.viinyl.com.

To help celebrate the album, Joe Iconis’s Rock and Roll Haunted Halloween Special 6 will be performed at the Laurie Beechman Theater at 407 West 42nd Street on October 31 at 7:30 p.m.. The event will star members of the original cast of Be More Chill including Gerard Canonico, Will Connolly, Katie Carlson Farrell, Katie Ladner, Lauren Marcus, and George Salazar. Jeremy Morse (Waitress), Will Roland (Dear Evan Hansen), and Jason “SweetTooth” Williams (Transport Group’s Once Upon a Mattress) will also perform.

Joe Iconis has been nominated for two Drama Desk Awards and a Lucille Lortel Award, and is the recipient of the Ed Kleban Award and the Jonathan Larson Award for Musical Theater writing. His songs appeared on season two of NBC’s Smash and he is the author of The Black Suits, the rock-and-roll Spaghetti Western musical Bloodsong of Love, Things To Ruin, The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks and We The People. Upcoming projects include a new musical about Hunter S. Thompson for La Jolla Playhouse and an exploitation action musical called Annie Golden: Bounty Hunter, Yo!. Be More Chill is Joe’s third album on Ghostlight Records.

Listen: Howard Crabtree’s ‘Whoop-Dee-Doo!’

August 14th, 2015 Comments off

whoop

by Ryan Leeds

On the surface, Howard Crabtree’s 1993 gay musical revue Whoop-Dee-Doo!, is pure frivolity that is sure to elicit chuckles, if not out loud laughs. Dig a bit deeper, however, and Crabtree’s witty lyrics are sure to resonate with anyone who has struggled with self-discovery and acceptance.

Masterworks Broadway recently released the original cast recording of the show (released in 1995), which is full of fun and catchy melodies. A peppy number reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters titled “Stuck on You” involves men dressed as flies who are affixed to flypaper:
“I’m stuck on you, like mud on a fender,
I’m stuck on you, like guacamole on the blade of a blender.” 

Another track, “A Soldier’s Musical,” takes a look at a militia of masculine meat and potatoes who shun the newest member of their group, a banana:
“The new recruit is a fruit.
All you have to do is look and see.
You can’t expect him to shoot and fight a war as well as you or  me.” 

In the bluesy “I Was Born This Way,” Crabtree offer a hilarious, yet intellectual outlook on the reason for homosexuality, offering the suggestion that:
“Some people are fatter, some people are taller,
and now it seems some people’s hypothalamuses are smaller,
that’s why I like the Joffrey Ballet.” 

“Tough to Be a Fairy” begins with  a hard-knock lament from a group who feels as though they are becoming obsolete in  modern fairy tales:
“These days it’s tough to be a fairy.
It’s a hairy situation sad to say.
Our population’s shrinking as our tribulations grow,
Sometimes we think extinction’s brink is closer than we know.”

It ends hopefully:
“Just remember when your spirits start to head down hill.
Hell, if we don’t believe in fairies, then who will!” 

What really drove the show were the costumes. In his 1993 review of the show, Variety‘s Greg Evans wrote, “Charles Busch and Everett Quinton might squint from the glare. Crabtree dresses himself and the cast as insects, fairies, food, Nancy Reagan, and in the show’s capper, a summer picnic, and there’s not a dud in the bunch.” Still, the recording does a terrific job of igniting the listener’s imagination to what was obviously a delightfully garish spectacle.

From a historical perspective, the show was a breath of fresh air from more serious gay dramas that emerged in the 80s and 90s, much of which dealt with the AIDS epidemic and the fight to be taken seriously. Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy and Terrance McNally’s Love! Valour! Compassion!, all explored the darker, more challenging and literal life and death cycles of gay life.

When Whoop-Dee-Doo! opened, Tony Kushner’s sweeping drama, Angels in America was tackling the poltics of gay life further uptown. While Crabtree’s sketch show wasn’t nearly as polemical as the previously mentioned shows,  it’s fun-filled facade should not be underestimated.

Nearly 25 years ago, gay men and women were fighting for recognition and equal rights. Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of same sex marriage, proving that we are winning the fight (although we should not rest in the false comfort that the struggle is over). Crabtree’s brand of camp humor begs us to ask the question whether self-deprecation is the answer to overcoming the opposition? Does Whoop-Dee-Doo! offer a protective shield  which suggests that we can laugh at ourselves, or does it only perpetuate and reinforce stereotypes that heterosexual society already believes? Either way, Masterworks has provided an amusing and thought provoking conversation piece by capturing this historic gem in digital format.

Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.

Review: “Matilda”‘s Ear-Piercing Broadway Cast Recording

October 21st, 2013 Comments off
The Broadway cast of "Matilda The Musical." (photo: Joan Marcus)

The Broadway cast of “Matilda The Musical.” (photo: Joan Marcus)

Matilda The Musical has released a Broadway cast album. After a smattering of rave reviews it is no surprise that the producers, headlined by the Royal Shakespeare Company, would elect to commemorate the American incarnation of the British sensation.

When the show opened this past spring it was like the world stopped to nod its head toward the musical with notices like “The makers of “Matilda” have done the impossible—triumphantly.” (The Wall Street Journal) and “The best musical since the Lion King!” (Time). Ben Brantley, the notoriously harsh critic from The New York Times pronounced Matilda as “…the most satisfying and subversive musical ever to come out of Britain.” Since opening night the box office has soared and every bourgeois housewife in the tri-state area has scrambled her way into Shubert Alley hoping to pick up tickets for the kiddies.

The Broadway cast of "Matilda The Musical." (photo: Joan Marcus)

The Broadway cast of “Matilda The Musical.” (photo: Joan Marcus)

My experience with Matilda has been filled with jilting and jolting, especially now having listened to the new recording. I first encountered the show as a cast album from London about a year and a half ago. No presumptions on the title, I had never heard of the composer, Tim Minchin, and didn’t have a point of a view on the material – I was looking forward to hearing a new show for the first time. Call me a show queen, if you please.  My first listen had my ears and heart curious, enjoying the spastic and catchy clips of melody intertwined with British zingers. The tunes sounded different and the score ascertained a frenzied style that gave life to the content and storybook characters created by the literary genius, Roald Dahl. It felt like a fun show with heart and energy and I couldn’t wait to see the show on Broadway! At last something that felt unique with a sound and personality all its own.

Seeing the Broadway incarnation of Matilda twice this past theater season, I left the show both times with a headache and found myself scratching my head thinking, “What’s the big deal about this musical?” The staging combined with the jerky and loud score felt ultra aggressive. Somehow the parts did not add up. The show shouted and screamed but never made a point to make me listen. Matilda competes with itself in every aspect: the staging is robotic and sharp—absent of nuance or individuality—while the score is often too fast and over orchestrated to hear the lyrics. Here is an example of quantity over quality.

The new cast album, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and book by Dennis Kelly, captures the show with extended songs not on the London album—the opening song, “Miracle,” now has three parts with individual tracks. The majority of the score is a plunky repetition of vamps that circle songs like sharks in the Bermuda Triangle. The kids have been directed to screech and scratch through every syllable of the lyrics, which are often times clever but too busy to understand what they mean or hear them through the background noise. During the mother’s song, “Loud,” it sounds like the music director abducted the Tin Man on his way to the find Oz and heaved him into the orchestra pit.

Two songs emerge from the clutter with some grace. The “want” song Matilda sings at the beginning of the show, “Naughty” (performed by the sweet-voiced Sophia Gennusa) is delightful and sets a tone for the character but sadly doesn’t make a reprise soon enough. “When I Grow Up” (performed by Lauren Ward and Bailey Ryon) gets Act Two off to a good start after the annoying “Telly” song that brings the audience back to their seats in a Lets-Make-A-Deal / Borsch Belt approach. “When I Grow Up” is welcomed because it has a tuneful melody that sounds like something kids would actually say and think about: “And when I grow up, I will eat sweets every day on the way to work and I will go to bed late every night!”

Matilda personifies the power and danger of how hype can affect a Broadway show. The new recording catapults itself to the front of the class, but its once gentle and delicate voice has been overshadowed with the mechanisms of an overproduced musical.

Sneak Peek: Original Cast Recording of “Kinky Boots”

May 16th, 2013 Comments off

The cast of "Kinky Boots." (photo: Matt Murphy)

Can’t wait to hear the original Broadway cast recording of Kinky Boots, with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper? The Broadway Blog snagged this behind-the-scenes video of the cast in the recording studio. Our prediction: Ms. Lauper better make room on her mantle for a Tony award… and maybe even a Grammy.

Click Here for our review of Kinky Boots.