Cast CD Review Roundup

golden apple

The Golden Apple (First Full Length Recording)

When The Golden Apple premiered in 1954, its blend of American folklore and Greek myth, popular entertainment and high art, and musical comedy and operatic drama was revolutionary. After some initial success, however, The Golden Apple all but slipped into obscurity. In November 2014, the Lyric Stage of Irving, Texas, mounted a fully-staged revival of the musical, featuring an orchestra of 38 and a 43-member cast. PS Classics has released a live recording of this production, making commercially available all 135 minutes of this through-composed musical for the first time ever. While it has some problems one would expect from a live recording of a regional production – moments that don’t quite land, some bum notes and straining voices – overall it is a lush, majestic account of composer Jerome Moross’s ravishing score, a lost masterpiece really. Highly recommended.

To purchase, click here.

Fun Home CD

Fun Home (A New Broadway Musical)

Richly emotional yet rigorously unsentimental. Lyricist Lisa Kron’s astringent wit and surging music by Jeanine Tesori make for a score that, while sometimes dark, is never depressing. The way Tesori’s music pushes urgently and sincerely at Kron’s mordantly funny lyrics produces a truly exciting tension, not to mention Tesori’s best musical theatre writing to date. Three women actors play Alison at various stages of her life and their performances are the beating heart of this CD: Beth Malone as the introspective and retrospective adult Alison, Emily Skeggs as the girl-crazy college age Alison, and Sydney Lucas as the young tomboy Alison. Michael Cerveris is pitch perfect as the closeted Bruce, especially in the climactic “Edges of the World”, capturing both the love of beauty and the ultimately destructive perfectionism of this very complex man.

To purchase, click here.

on-the-twentieth-century-new-broadway-cast-double-cd

On the Twentieth Century (New Broadway Cast Recording)

Hearing Kristen Chenoweth at the top of her form and perfectly cast is the whole reason to get this cast recording. The show’s creators, composer Cy Coleman and wordsmiths Betty Comden and Adolph Green, were all masters of musical theatre, but On the Twentieth Century finally works best as a star vehicle. And, thank goodness, Chenoweth is one hell of a star! She is truly incandescent here, her frisky musical comedy chops ideally matched to Comden and Green’s smartalecky wit. There’s also an adorable quartet of train porters – who even get a showstopping number of their own, the Act II opener “Life’s a Train”, which is definitely a highlight of this recording. The whole score is never less than a giddy good time.

To purchase, click here.

Review: Fun Home

Fun Home Circle in the Square Theatre

Richly emotional yet rigorously unsentimental – this quality is one of the things I like most about the remarkable musical Fun Home. It’s a hallmark of lesbian American literature from Gertrude Stein and Willa Cather onward, and something with which I’m very comfortable (my earliest mentors in the theatre were lesbian writers very much in that tradition-breaking tradition). Add to this bookwriter/lyricist Lisa Kron’s astringent wit, and the surging music by Jeanine Tesori, and you have a show that deals with longing and death that, while sometimes dark, is never depressing.

Fun Home is based on cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel, in which Alison tries to make some sense of the connections between her father’s closeted homosexuality, and her own more overtly expressed lesbianism. That emotional but unsentimental quality was already there in Bechdel’s book – to be expected from the author of a comic strip called Dykes to Watch Out For (a personal favorite of mine for decades). It’s a sensibility that Lisa Kron definitely shares: there has rarely been a better fit of adaptor to adapted.

If sentiment comes in anywhere, it’s in Tesori’s music. The way her music pushes urgently and sincerely at Kron’s mordantly funny lyrics produces a truly exciting tension, not to mention Tesori’s best musical theatre writing to date.

Three women actors play Alison at various stages of her life and they’re all marvelous: Beth Malone as the introspective and retrospective adult Alison, Emily Skeggs as the girl-crazy college-age Alison, and Sydney Lucas as the tomboy-becoming-butch young Alison. Michael Cerveris is pitch perfect as the closeted Bruce, capturing both the love of beauty and the ultimately destructive perfectionism of this very complex man. Highly recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.