Sunday, September 29, 2013

Album Review: FIRST DATE

To paraphrase lyrics from the show: "It's only a first impression; I could be totally wrong. But... this show doesn't seem to be very good."

First Date, the new musical comedy currently running on Broadway and featuring stars Krysta Rodriguez and Zachary Levi in the lead roles, is one of those shows that has completely divided critics and audiences. Critics have generally slammed the show, with a few exceptions, while audiences have been going crazy over it.

I'm going to assume that this is a show you really have to see to appreciate, because nothing that audiences seem to be so excited over comes across on this recording, produced by the great new Yellow Sound Label. All this recording amounts to is a bunch forgettable pop-rock songs filled with try-hard comedy consisting of clich├ęs and stereotypes. Again, this is only going off the recording. This is by no means an immortalization of the entire show, so I'm sure those of us who have only heard the album are missing something. I have no doubt that this show is as funny and enjoyable as audiences are saying. But if it was the intention of this album to capture that spirit, it hasn't quite succeeded.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Album Review: THE LAST FIVE YEARS (2013 OFF-BROADWAY CAST RECORDING)

The Last Five Years is pretty much a cult phenomenon. This modest yet heartfelt little two-hander musical by composer Jason Robert Brown made a splash when it initially opened Off-Broadway in 2001 featuring the then-unknown Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott in breakthrough performances. And, while the show wasn't really a huge critical success, the show obtained a huge following due to its breathtaking contemporary pop-rock score. And here we are, with an Off-Broadway revival produced at Second Stage over 12 years later featuring two new up-and-coming talents: Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe. Plus, the icing on the cake: Jason Robert Brown himself as director. So, how is this new cast recording?


Well, I'll put it this way: Do not expect this album to replace the original cast recording with Butz and Scott. It simply doesn't. But is it an excellent companion, especially for fans of the show? Oh god yes.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Album Review: AARON TVEIT - THE RADIO IN MY HEAD (LIVE AT 54 BELOW)

Aaron Tveit is the Justin Bieber of Broadway, and I mean that in the best possible way.

To many, he's the heartthrob of the Great White Way, climbing to fame after he thrilled audiences in the emotionally exhausting rock musical Next to Normal... but he really became known when he appeared as Enjolras in the film adaptation of Les Miserables. With boyish good looks, a killer charm, and a tenor voice you could listen to endlessly, people love him... and it's not hard to see why.

This album, a record of Tveit's concert at Broadway's popular cabaret nightclub 54 Below, just happened to be released at the exact same time as Laura Benanti's 54 Below album, both produced by the wonderful Broadway Records ( I review Benanti's album here).  And with Ms. Benanti's stunning and brilliantly fun recording getting so much buzz, I truly hope Tveit's album gets just as much.

Album Review: LAURA BENANTI - IN CONSTANT SEARCH OF THE RIGHT KIND OF ATTENTION (LIVE AT 54 BELOW)

54 Below is a wonderful thing. This relatively new Broadway cabaret club has, in its short time of existence, attracted some of musical theatre's most exciting and biggest talents to perform small concert engagements. But don't go to these concerts expecting a full-on musical theatre show... often, 54 Below gives these stars the venue to perform music we'd otherwise never hear out of them, with perhaps a mere sprinkling of tunes out of the musical theatre cannon.

For those of us who live such a great distance away from New York City, the up-and-coming label Broadway Records has taken the liberty of immortalizing some of the best and most exciting of these concerts for the rest of the world to hear. Current recordings include concerts by Norbert Leo Butz, Patti LuPone, Christiane Noll, Aaron Tveit, and Andrea McArdle... but easily one of the most anticipated releases was of Laura Benanti's concert. It's here now. And to say it doesn't disappoint would be a severe understatement.