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Sparks Fly but no Fireworks from “Bombshell”

March 13th, 2013 Comments off

Guest contributor Scott Redman has musical theater flashbacks as he reviews the CD release of “Bombshell,” the show within the show from NBC’s Smash. He also gives us a sneak peek at Megan Hilty’s new release, “It Happens All the Time.”

 

It was always a thrill visiting my local music store to find the latest original Broadway cast recording and see the show artwork peering through an unblemished jewel case. I couldn’t wait to rush home, rip off the cellophane wrapper, pop the CD in my jam box and push play. My young heart and ears were eager to hear something that would delight and inspire my adolescent soul. The possibilities were endless. I instructed myself with the same directions before hitting play on the first track of “Bombshell”, the musical featured in the NBC television drama, Smash.

“Bombshell” is a bio-tuner based on the life of Marilyn Monroe focusing on her climb to stardom and a few detours including her relationship with famed Yankees slugger Joe DiMaggio. Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman, the respective composer and lyricist of Hairspray and Catch Me If You Can, have crafted 22 songs for this mock musical. The show opens with the promising “Let Me Be You Star” – an uptempo want song, performed with youthful energy from young Norma Jeane (a role shared by Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee) pushing herself into the spotlight.

Real life Broadway leading lady, Bernadette Peters, plays Norma Jeane’s mother — giving the young hopeful support to follow her dreams in “At Your Feet,” which sounds reminiscent of something Mama Rose would sing in Gypsy. “The 20th Century Fox Mambo” brightly whisks Norma Jeane through Hollywood sound stages using dance metaphors to characterize each studio. After Marilyn meets Joe Dimaggio, played by Will Chase, they daydream about their lives without the fame and fortune in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” romanticizing an ordinary yet fulfilled life. Daydreaming doesn’t last long and Dimaggio finds himself “On Lexington & 52nd Street” belting his woes to midtown New York.

Marilyn keeps moving with “Cut, Print… Moving On,” a tune that revisits musical themes from the opening number. Soon after Marilyn is soaking up the attention with the jazz inspired “Public Relations.” The most heart touching song from the track list is “Second Hand White Baby Grand” – we hear Marilyn reflect on the piano that sparked her dream to perform. This tune has the makings to become a standard in the American songbook. However the light shines through this song, it diminishes with the last tracks on the album.

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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”

November 14th, 2012 Comments off

The Cast of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood". Photo by Joan Marcus.

THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD

Rupert Holmes’s tongue-in-cheek, tongue-twisting, Tony-winning musical with an audience-voted ending (based on Charles Dicken’s unfinished novel of vengeful passions) gets a Broadway revival starring Chita Rivera, Stephanie J. Block and Will Chase.

“The machinations of the mystery plot dance in dizzying rhythmic counterpoint to the story framing the musical…even as [the cast of characters] bicker and mug and tell hoary jokes to cajole the audience into a state of happy delirium.”  New York Times

…for a show doing triple duty as musical, choose-your-own-ending mystery and time-travel device, Drood is jolly good fun.”  New York Post

“…all the affectionately antiquated whimsy never quite adds up to robust entertainment.”  The Hollywood Reporter

Drood, ultimately, is not a complete show so much as an expandable playspace, and with performers of this caliber, an evening of yeasty, nudge-nudge-wink-wink British good humor is more or less guaranteed.”  New York Magazine

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