Cast Albums Blog
REVIEW: Lena Hall: Obsessed series
This week's release of Lena Hall Obsessed: Chris Cornell brought the conclusion of one of the most ambitious recording programs to emerge from our small corner of the music industry in recent memory: Lena Hall's yearlong series of Obsessed EPs. Each month since January, Hall has put out a four-to-six song collection of stripped down covers, with each release focused on a different band or musician drawn from Hall's favorites.
While the series launched with a six-song retrospective of numbers from Hedwig and the Angry Inch (a show for which Hall won a Tony Award as Yitzhak before embarking on a tour playing both Yitzhak as well as Hedwig at select performances), Hall kept the spotlight primarily on the world of rock. Post-January, the closet she came to covering other showtunes was the inclusion of "As The World Falls Down" and "Lazarus" in her David Bowie set. All of this is to say, Obsessed is more at home at the Troubador than Cafe Carlyle, and yes, I know Hall has previously played the Carlyle with a show (preserved as Sin & Salvation) featuring similar material.
REVIEW: Jessica Vosk - Wild and Free
You might not yet be familiar with the name Jessica Vosk. As a performer whose most significant credits are Fruma-Sarah in the Fiddler revival and the 20th Broadway Elphaba, she hasn't yet had the opportunity to breakout and ascend to true Broadway stardom. If we live in a just universe, her debut album, Wild and Free, would be that opportunity.
Vosk has the kind of backstory that press agents dream about: she left a successful Wall Street career in her twenties to pursue showbiz, working her way quickly up the musical theatre ladder while amassing a cult following of fans and establishing herself as a first-rate cabaret performer. Those fans rallied with remarkable speed to crowdfund this album while she was touring the country in Wicked, and now the album drops not long after she stepped into the Broadway production.
REVIEW: How We React and How We Recover - Jason Robert Brown
Many of us first fell in love with Jason Robert Brown's music through the cast recording of his first show, the revue Songs for a New World. His ability to create entire worlds through words and music, telling complete stories in three-minute chunks, lent itself extraordinarily well to cast recordings and concerts -- as the concert revival of the show now playing at New York City Center is demonstrating to a new generation.
It's fitting that Brown has followed a bit of the singer-songwriter path with frequent concert appearances (including a cabaret residency at Subculture) and the occasional album. That How We React and How We Recover, his first studio album since 2005 (with a 2011 concert album in between), drops the same weekend as the Songs revival invites comparison, although given the subjects treated in both that comparison is inevitable: if Songs is about turning-point moments in one's life (often filtered through the somewhat wide-eyed optimism of a writer in his 20s), React/Recover is about the turning point moment we all find ourselves in at this moment in history, filtered through the eyes of a writer in his 40s trying to reclaim the optimism of his youth.
REVIEW: Hello Again - Soundtrack
When RCA released the cast album of Lincoln Center's production of Hello Again in 1994, they introduced a bold new voice of the American musical theatre to the world: Michael John LaChiusa. While savvy New Yorkers had already encountered his complex, challenging work in First Lady Suite, that score had gone unrecorded at the time. I remember not quite knowing what to make of the score; I was a teenager who had little to no experience with the subject matter, but I could tell this was the first composer to make a case that the post-Sondheim generation could keep pushing the form in the ways he had without becoming pale imitations of the master.
Over the next few years, with the premiere of Adam Guettel's Floyd Collins in 1996 and especially with Audra McDonald's debut solo disc in 2000, it became clear that LaChiusa was on the vanguard of an entire school of composers straddling the worlds of musical theatre and art song/chamber opera. McDonald's inclusion of two songs from the score ("Tom" and "Mistress of the Senator") on How Glory Goes (which drew its name from a Floyd Collins ballad) was the first time I (and I suspect many others) could appreciate the component parts of Hello Again as stand-alone songs, and genius ones at that. That album came in the same six-month period that LaChiusa debuted two new musicals on Broadway (The Wild Party and Marie Christine, a vehicle for McDonald), and his place in musical theatre was solidified.
While LaChiusa has never achieved mainstream success, his music has been debated and prized by connoisseurs of sophisticated musical theatre for more than two decades. And yet despite this -- or perhaps because of it -- when a film version of Hello Again was announced, it was met with disbelief. But here we are in 2018 with an honest-to-God film version of Hello Again that played short arthouse engagements and has now produced a soundtrack.
REVIEW: Pat Suzuki - Complete Album Series & Singles and Rarities 1958–1967
Had Pat Suzuki only ever appeared in Flower Drum Song, her knock-out performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "I Enjoy Being A Girl" would have secured her place in musical theater history. How lucky we are, though, that she also had a lengthy, if somewhat forgotten, career as a recording artist. And how lucky we are that Stage Door Records is releasing two collections of her studio work: Complete Album Series (out next week) and Singles and Rarities 1958-1967, out now.