Thursday, February 16, 2017

CAST RECORDINGS OF 2016: A PERSONAL LOOK

In 2016, between cast recordings and movie/television musicals soundtracks, I counted 80 releases. I didn’t listen to all of those, but I only missed a few (ex. BUMBLESCRATCH).

Before crucifying me for my choices, let me confess that I love the traditional Broadway sound and I have strong difficulties to enjoy other music styles. So, everything that sounds like rock (ex. LAZARUS), country (ex. BRIGHT STAR) or folk (ex. TUCK EVERLASTING) hardly have a chance to catch my narrow-minded ears. In order to get an idea, take a look at my 20 FAVORITE SCORES of all time.

Without further delays, here are my choices. First, and for first time ever, the “Jorge’s Place Awards” and then my “Top Twelve” recordings of 2016 (in preference order).


JORGE'S PLACE AWARDS 2016







TOP 12 RECORDINGS OF 2016





If you like this, take a look at my choices of 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

RED EYE OF LOVE: A CD Review

Studio Cast – 2016 / Music by Sam Davis and lyrics by Arnold Weinstein and John Wulp
Starring: Kelli O’Hara, Brad Oscar, Josh Grisetti, Nikki Renee Daniels, Sam Bolen, Sarah Corey, Christine DiGiallonardo, John Morton, Greg Roderick, Leah Stuart, and Matthew Zimmerman
Rate: 8 (from 1 to 10) / Photos by Sara Krulwich and Carol Rosegg

Review: This new musical comedy opened in New York in 2014, but the score had to wait until now to be recorded and the result is a terrific studio cast recording that is one of the best releases of 2016.

The songs have the quality of taking me to a fantasy world where a song and a dance can resolve everything. It begins with the entertaining “Good Old O. O.” and ends with the best “ménage à trois” song I have heard, “Three is the Key Finale”. In between, there are some terrific big showtunes like “Seize the Opportunity”, “The Word on the Street” and “I’m Going to the Movies”, quieter songs like “Among the Navajo” and “Say, Fella”, beautiful ballads like “Rain” and “Yes, Well, Anyway”, delicious duets like “Open Your Eyes” and “Two Fat Cats”, the title song is a passionate tango and I simply love “How Much?” (strongly sung by Nikki Renee Daniels). I just wish they had written an overture for it, because it’s the kind of score who deserves an old fashion overture in the style of Jule Styne or Jerry Herman.

In the leading female role, Kelli O’Hara is at her best.  Perfect in the dramatic numbers and in the funny ones. As her two love interests, Josh Grisetti and Brad Oscar sound like a match made in heaven, making this recording a high enjoyable one.

The music by Sam Davis, who I only knew from his interesting album “Love on a Summer Afternoon”, is the kind I wish there were more written these days. Helped by traditional Broadway flavored orchestrations by Bruce Coughlin, his songs take as back to a time were musicals weren’t supposed to be very serious and where you came out of the theatre humming a song or two. This is the kind of old fashion score that I love so much. Don’t miss it!



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

SHOW MUSIC RELEASES: JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017


Here you find a list, as complete as possible, of all the CDs, digital albums, DVDs and Blu-ray regarding stage and movie musicals that that are being released in January and February 2017. The list is in alphabetical order.


BELLS ARE RINGING – Blu-ray release of the 1960 movie adaptation of the Jule Styne and Betty Ciomden & Adolph Green musical. Starring Judy Holliday, Dean Martin, Jean Stapleton and Fred Clark. Directed by Vincente Minnelli.

THE BOY-FRIEND – Blu-ray release of the 1971 Ken Russell’s movie adaptation of Sandy Wilson’s musical. Starring Twiggy, Christopher Gable, Max Adrian, Tommy Tune, Brian Murphy, Barbara Windsor and Vladek Sheybal.


DEAR EVAN HANSEN – Original Broadway Cast recording starring Ben Platt, Laura Dreyfuss, Rachel Bay Jones, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Mike Faist, Michael Park, Will Roland and Kristolyn Lloyd, and Michael Lee Brown, Garrett Long, Olivia Puckett, Colton Ryan and Asa Somers. Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

A DOG STORY – Original Off-Broadway Cast recording, featuring David Perlman, Lindsie VanWinkle, Stephanie Brown and Brian Ray Norris. Music and lyrics by Gayla D. Morgan. 


DRAKE’S DREAM – Original 1977 London Cast album starring Paul Jones, Bill Pearson, Janet Shaw, Bill Bradley, Caro Gurney, David Burt, Nicholas Denney, Earl Jordan, Stanley Fleet and Tricia Deighton. Music and Lyrics by Lynne & Richard Riley. 


FREAKY FRIDAY – Studio Cast recording starring Heidi Blickenstaff, Emma Hunton, Jason Gotay, Alan H. Green, Ann Harada and Jake Heston Miller. Music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Brian Yorkey.

THE GANG'S ALL HERE - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack of the 20th Century Fox starring Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, James Ellison, Phil Baker, Benny Goodman and his Orchestra. Music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Leo Robin.

THE HARVEY GIRLS  - DVD-R release of the MGM musical starring Judy Garland, John Hodiak, Ray Bolger, Angela Lansbury, Preston Foster, Virginia O'Brien, Kenny Baker, Marjorie Main, Chill Wills and Cyd Charisse. Songs by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer.

I’LL CRY TOMORROW – 1955 movie biopic of Lillian Roth, starring Susan Hayward, Richard Conte, Eddie Albert, Don Taylor, Margo and Jo Van Fleet.

IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME – DVD-R release of the MGM musical starring Judy Garland, Van Johnson, Spring Byington, Buster Keaton and a very young Liza Minnelli.


THE KING AND I – Digital HD release of the 1956 movie adaptation of the Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II musical, starring Yul Brynner, Deborah Kerr, Rita Moreno, Maureen Hingert and Martin Benson. Release date: January 2017


OKLAHOMA! - Digital HD release of the 1955 movie adaptation of the Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II musical, starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Gene Nelson, Eddie Albert, Gloria Grahame and Rod Steiger. Release date: January 2017


SONG OF SOLOMON – Concept Cast recording featuring Ramin Karimloo, Alison Luff, Casey Manning, Alexander Gemignani, Hayden Tee, Jessica Foster, Alessandra Baldacchino and Desi Oakley. Music by Andrew Beall and lyric by Neil Van Leeuwen. Release date: January 2017


SOUTH PACIFIC - Digital HD release of the 1958 movie adaptation of the Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II musical, starring Rossano Brazzi, Mitzi Gaynor, John Kerr, Juanita Hall, Frances Nuyen, Ray Walston. Release date: January 2017


Thursday, December 8, 2016

HAIRSPRAY Live: A CD Review

Original NBC Televison Soundtrack – 2016 / Music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman
Starring: Maddle Baillio, Derek Hough, Jennifer Hudson, Kristin Chenoweth, Harvey Fierstein, Garrett Clayton, Ariana Grande, Martin Short, Ephraim Sykes, Dove Cameron, Shahadi Wright Joseph
Rate: 8 (from 1 to 10)

Review: “Welcome to the 60s” and to the soundtrack of the live NBC adaptation of the Broadway musical!

This is probably the best and most exciting rendition of the score. The orchestrations are more exciting, the 60s spirit is more alive, the energy is superior and everyone in the cast sounds like they’re having the time of their lives. I haven’t’ seen the NBC production yet so I don’t I know about it, but the soundtrack is great! Besides songs written originally for the Broadway score, it includes “Ladies’ Choice” and “Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)” that were written for the 2007 movie adaptation, and both blend perfectly with the rest of the score.

On her debut, Maddei Baillio as Tracy is a winner leading lady and strongly delivers all her songs. Jennifer Hudson is terrific as Motormouth Maybelle and deliver her songs with feeling. Kristin Chenoweth is probably the best Velma Von Tussle I heard until now and she seems to love every moment of her “(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs”. Derek Hough sounds like he just come out of a sixties show. The one and only Harvey Fierstein returns to the role he created on Broadway and sounds exactly the same, his duet with Martin Short, “(You’re) Timeless to Me”, is one of my favorite songs of the show.

For me, the highlights are the already mentioned “(You’re) Timeless to Me”, “I Can Hear the Bells” and the exciting “Welcome to the 60s”. I also love “Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)”, where Hudson and Ariana Grande strongly lead the company.

This kind of music isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it’s difficult to resist to the toe tapping rhythms and the contagious joy of living of this recording. Even if you’re a big fan of the Broadway cast recording, I’m sure you’ll love this much better rendition of the score. Believe me, “You Can’t Stop the Beat”.




Sunday, November 27, 2016

TALES OF TINSELTOWN: A CD Review

Concept Album Cast – 2016 / Music by Paul Katz and lyrics by Michael Colby
Starring: Christine Bianco, Klea Blackhurst, Nat Chandler, Jake Epstein, Alison Fraser, Harriet Harris, Richard Kind, Tony Yazbeck, Samantha Massell, Nora Menken, Levin Michael Murphy, Ryan Bauer-Walsh
Rate: 7 (from 1 to 10) / Photos by Elizabeth Wolynski

Review: I always have a soft spot for the Hollywood movie musicals of the 30s and in this “movieland musical”, as written by Michael Colby and musicalized by Paul Katz, those magic times come back to life with a bunch of good songs and a perfect cast.

With inspiring orchestrations (I just wish there was a bigger orchestra playing the songs) by Larry Hochman, it begins with a proper “Overture”, something that is missing from many contemporary musicals, and continues with Harriet Harris and company in funny mode with “The Public Wants to Know”, followed by the talented Christina Bianco with a true 30s style tune, “I Belong in Hollywood”. “Let’s Go” and “Keep in Step” could have been written by the likes of Harry Warren.

“Musical Mélange” is the kind of old fashion musical songs that I really enjoy. There’s also a bit of the Nelson Eddy & Jeanette MacDonald operettas (“Someone to Love Me” or “Hunchy”, both sung by Nat Chandler) and the Shirley Temple musicals (“Sounds in the Night” sung by Christina Bianco). No one doubts that Klea Blackhurst can sing and that she sounds just like Ethel Merman; here she shines with “I Can Sing” and “For My Career”. The charming Tony Yazbeck gives his Gene Kelly impersonation with “All Over the Place”. I confess that Alison Fraser’s big number “Jungle Fever” isn’t the most inspiring song of the score, I prefer her “Got to Be Good”. “It’s Mine” would be perfect for Judy Garland

The ballads “All I Dreamed”, “So This is the Movies”, “I’ll Stand by You” and “Stars in My Eyes” sound out of place with their more contemporary pop style, although I like the last two, beautifully sung by Jake Epstein (“I’ll Stand by You”) and Christine Bianco (“Stars in My Eyes”). The country styled “Born to Be Bad” may seem to belong to another musical, but in fact it's an homage to the western musicals of Roy Rogers.

These small problems apart, this in an enjoyable score that easily puts a smile on your face and a hum on your lips. It takes us back to more innocent times, when musicals didn’t need to have a message, they were just made to entertain and this TALES OF TINSELTOWN does just that.


CHARLOTTE SWEET: A CD Review

Concept Off-Broadway Cast – 1982 / Music by Gerald Jay Markoe and lyrics by Michael Colby
Starring: Mara Beckerman, Lynn Eldredge, Jeff Keller, Timothy Landfield, Merle Louise, Michael McCormick, Polly Pen, Christopher Seppe
Rate: 4 (from 1 to 10) / Photos by Elizabeth Wolynski

Review: Before THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD brought the British Music-Hall back to the Broadway stage, this small show did it a few years before Off-Broadway. Now, for the first time, the complete score was finally released (the early 90s CD include only selections of it).

Like they say on the CD booklet, this musical is “an amalgam of musical comedy, music hall, opera, operetta, and melodrama, not to mention the rhymed musicals films of the early 1930s”. Likewise, the music style is reminiscent of the work of Gilbert & Sullivan, of which I was never a big fan. This is one of those scores that I believe could work brilliantly on stage and by listening to the recording the actors were perfectly chosen. But this isn’t my cup of tea.

It begins well, with “At the Music Hall”, and the title song is sweet and funny. Lynn Eldregde leads the company with the entertaining “Quartet Agonistes” and she also has a good time with “Keep It Low”. “Bubbles in Me Bonnet” is deliciously sung by Merle Louise, who also nicely delivers an old fashion ballad, “Good Things Come”. Michael McCormick has a funny time with “Vegetable Reggie”. “It Could Only Happen in the Theatre” is a typical number of these kind of shows. In the title role, Mara Beckerman has a pitchy voice that is perfect for the role, just listen to her “Lonely Canary”.

Both the music by Gerald Jay Markoe and the lyrics by Michael Colby catch the true spirit of the British musical-hall and if you love this kind of stuff you’ll have a lovely time with this recording.