Sunday, 3 April 2016

Top 5: Musicals I Missed

I recently discovered that on the Spotify app you can get yourself a one week free trial of Premium, without having to input any card details, which is the best kind of free trial. Whilst I have been using some of it to catch up on the ~current chart trends~, during the Hamilton hype I realised that I've gotten woefully behind the times on an art form that I normally was very on-top of.
Here's a selection of cast recordings that I recommend you check out; they're all on Spotify or iTunes.

Evita (2012 Broadway Revival)

Music & Lyrics:
Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice
Starring: Elena Roger, Ricky Martin, Michael Cerveris, Max von Essen & Rachel Potter
Evita is one of my favourite musicals, so really this is a bit of a cheat entry. I've loved the show for ages, since watching the Madonna/Antonio Banderas film version. It's the story of Eva Peron, who rose from being a nobody to being the wife of Juan Peron, who was the 'President' (in as much as you can be in a pretty authoritarian regime) of Argentina, and who died relatively young (not a spoiler as the show opens with her funeral).
This cast recording does have a special place in my heart as Elena Roger starred in the stage version of the show which I saw for my 13th birthday back in 2006. This is a really full recording of the show, and whilst Roger's vocals are maybe an acquired taste (she's actually Argentinian which does add an air of authenticity); Lloyd Webber & Rice are both on such great form in this show with really great Latin-inflected songs and some incredibly biting lyrics. Michael Cerveris is really good as Peron (especially in Dice are Rolling) and Ricky Martin (yes, that Ricky Martin) is actually surprisingly good too.
Must Listen Tracks: THE WHOLE SCORE (and then watch the Madonna/Antonio Banderas/Jonathan Pryce film and join me in hoping for a revival because it's been TEN YEARS GUYS PLEASE). "Oh What a Circus" for scene setting, "The Money Kept Rolling Out (And In)"/"The Art of the Possible" for the political angle, "You Must Love Me" for just being a really beautiful song

Hands on a Hardbody (2013 Broadway Production)

Music & Lyrics: 
Trey Anastasio & Amanda Green
Starring: Hunter Foster, Dale Soules, William Youmans, Jacob Ming-Trent, Keith Carradine, Mary Gordan Murray, Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone, Jim Newman, Allison Case, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Keala Settle, David Larsen, Scott Wakefield, Connie Ray & Jon Rua
Hands on a Hardbody was a pretty definitive flop when it opened on Broadway, running for just 28 performances. However, Anastasio & Green's country-infused score is really good, so I'm not entirely sure why this couldn't find an audience. It's based on a documentary that tells the real story of poor people in Texas who compete to win a truck by literally having to stand outside with their hand on it, and the last person standing wins. It's definitely one of those way too strange to be made-up premises!
All the cast get their own moments to really shine vocally, and it's just something a little different (also for Hamilton fans, Jon Rua aka Charles Lee pops up here).
Must Listen Tracks: "My Problem Right There", "Stronger", "Joy of the Lord"

American Psycho (Original London Production)

Music & Lyrics: Duncan Sheik
Starring: Matt Smith, Susannah Fielding, Jonathan Bailey, Ben Aldridge, Cassandra Compton, Hugh Skinner, Katie Brayben, Charlie Anson & Eugene McCoy
Yes, American Psycho-The Musical. Starring a former Doctor Who. I was definitely sceptical going into this album but was surprised by how much I actually liked it. It's score is very much based in the electronica pop from the 80s, and even features covers of In the Air Tonight and Don't You Want Me. It really hammers home the shallowness of the world that Patrick Bateman and his contemporaries live in. Matt Smith can really sing, and his spoken passages in this just sound so completely devoid of emotion it's definitely a little unsettling; as are some of the lyrics towards the end of the show as Bateman really descends into serial killer madness.
Must Listen Tracks: 'You are What You Wear', 'Not a Common Man', 'This is Not an Exit'

Pippin (2014 Broadway Revival)

Music & Lyrics:
Stephen Schwartz
Starring: Matthew James Scott, Patina Miller, Terrence Mann, Charlotte d'Amboise, Rachel Bay Jones & Andrea Martin
Despite loving Wicked and Schwartz's work for Disney, weirdly I'd never really decided to look at his other musical works. I'm not entirely sure what Pippin is actually about-I'm presuming there's a lot more going on off the record-but the songs are great. From the traditional 'I Want' songs (Matthew James Scott really knocking 'Corner of the Sky Out'), to a fab patter-song delivered by Terrence Mann and an ensemble that sounds incredible throughout. In a role traditionally played by a man, Patina Miller sounds great all the way through too. This was a production that was really lauded for its staging so it's great when this can transfer to a recording too.
This is probably more traditional musical sounding than the previous two shows but it's definitely still worth a listen.
Must Listen Tracks: "Corner of the Sky", "Simple Joys", "I Guess I'll Miss the Man"

Fun Home (2015 Broadway Production)

Music & Lyrics:
Lisa Kron & Jeanine Tesori
Starring: Beth Malone, Michael Cerveris, Judy Kuhn, Emily Skeggs, Sydney Lucas, Oscar Williams, Zell Morrow, Roberta Colindrez & Joel Perez
If Hamilton is this year's successful musical about an unlikely topic, Fun Home was last year's. Based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel which explores her own coming out against the backdrop of her father's suicide and discovering that he too was gay.
Kron and Tesori were the first female duo to win a Tony Award for Best Score, and emotional heart of this story just punches all the way through the score; if that's emotional highs ('Ring of Keys' or 'Changing My Major) or lows (Judy Kuhn's heartbreaking 'Days and Days' and Michael Cerveris' [again-he's just really good] 'Edges of the World'). It's really worth a listen, and its message of self-acceptance is just really important.
Must Listen Tracks: "Ring of Keys", "Changing My Major", "Telephone Wire"

I'm definitely just scratching the surface of my musical theatre nerdery here, so there is definitely going to be more posts in this vein soon!

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