Sometimes music is used to tell stories, and this causes me to transform into a burrito of happiness. Music+Stories=Aural Cheesecake (yes, I am impressed by my mathematical skills).
I have seen exactly A Very Small Number of Broadway shows, and I have loved Broadway since way back when the number of shows I had seen was approximately None Whatsoever.
How have I managed this?
The answer is simple: Broadway Cast Recordings.
OH, THE GLORY OF MUSIC I CAN HAVE FOR MY VERY OWN AND OBSESS OVER WHENEVER I WANT.
Ahem. I mean-
The nifty thing about cast recordings is that they tell the story on their own. Depending on the musical, the cast recording can give you between 40% and 98% of the whole story (yes, these are completely random percentages but they make sense to me so I will use them). The point is, the songs are important, and hopefully beautiful enough to crush your soul. Most of my favorite cast recordings belong to shows that I have never seen.
So, without further floundering, I present to you My Top Ten Broadway Cast Recordings (in no specific order because don’t make me DECIDE).
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder does not have any stirring emotional numbers that will turn your eyes into fountains of salt water. In my opinion, this is definitely a sore blow. But what it lacks in truly emotional turmoil it makes up for in hilarity and
This show revolves around mild-mannered Monty Navarro who learns his kinship with the wealthy but disagreeable family of D’Ysquith and consequently becomes a serial killer.
I suppose you would call it a morbid comedy.
The musical style of this show is fairly traditional. The songs are quirky and the cast, led by Bryce Pinkham as Monty, is talented and aptly humorous. Jefferson Mays does annoy me a tad at times, but he is playing about a dozen roles so I forgive him.
My chief complaint with this recording is that Phoebe and Sibella’s voices are similar enough that it took me awhile to figure out they were two different people. (This caused much confusion for my poor brain.)
Newsies. My dear, dear children.
I have mixed feelings about this cast recording.
On the one hand: Alan Menken, who composed the music for this show, is my hero. I love Newsies. I love these songs. (“Santa Fe” and “Letter from the Refuge” especially.) I love these characters. (CRUTCHIE.)
On the other hand: THIS IS THE WRONG CAST.
Jeremy Jordan and Andrew Keenan-Bolger do a good job and everything (most of the time) as Jack and Crutchie respectively, but this is one of the shows I have actually seen live, and Joey Barreiro will always be Jack. Andy Richardson will always be Crutchie. Nothing can change this.
Also, the original Broadway cast recording does not include “Letter from the Refuge” because it was only added for the touring production, and I am bitter about this. That song is so perfect, and they will not let me have it for my own. WHY? WHAT DID I EVER DO TO DESERVE THIS?
My last complaint is that sometimes the orchestration sounds just a little too much like a rock concert. This is 1899, folks. What’s with the excessive electric guitar?!?
Despite the gravity of this other hand, my love for this show outweighs it and the cast recording is very important to me.
Mostly because of James Barbour. This man’s voice.
Yes, Mr. Rochester is a jerk, but his voice is so amazing that he makes all the other guys in the show sound pitiful, even though they have perfectly nice voices.
Marla Schaffel does an excellent job as the title role, even though I sometimes make fun of the way she gasps between lines when she is talking (It is vaguely William Shatner-like, but not that extreme).
The music and lyrics are by Paul Gordon, who I had never heard of before I discovered this show. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this music. At times the songs have a strangely southern ballad thing going on (which is weird since it is set in England), but a lot of the music is really beautiful. And I always tear up in the Finale.
I was a reluctant convert to Hamilton, my friends. Really. It took me a long time to warm up to it.
My initial response: “Rapping and pop music DO NOT go with Revolutionary War period!!! Lin, WHAT were you THINKING???”
I now concede that it works. Well done, Lin. Well done.
One of the things I love about this cast recording is the cast. Leslie Odom Jr. Christopher Jackson. Phillipa Soo. Renee Elise Goldsberry. These people’s voices are FANTASTIC. And I have even grown quite fond of Lin’s nasally contribution. I can’t picture Alexander Hamilton sounding like anyone else honestly. Daveed Diggs just makes me laugh though.
The other splendid thing about this recording is that it contains about five hundred songs. The more songs the better. And several of them involve heart-wrenching death and emotional scarring. That is always a positive attribute, right? (Is this normal?)
Lo and behold! I show with multiple cast recordings!
The 25th anniversary edition trumps the original cast recording easily for me.
Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess absolutely nailed their roles.
Michael Crawford’s Phantom is legendary. Sarah Brightman’s Christine is iconic. But Ramin and Sierra are my favorites by far. And the rest of the cast is phenomenal as well. Combine Ramin and Sierra with the haunting melodies of Andrew Lloyd Webber and I cannot resist. The 25th Anniversary Phantom of the Opera recording is truly amazing.
The music in this show is by Lucy Simon with lyrics by Marsha Norman. It is beautiful. Lily’s soaring soprano lines kill me. Rebecca Luker’s performance gives me chills. I guess it’s the severity of the chills that kill me.
Mary Lennox is a troubled girl in a huge house whose occupants are unwilling to let go of the ghosts of the past. The music in the show captures the haunting emotions and mystery so well. If you are in the right mood it will make you cry, I’m telling you.
I love the original Broadway cast recording of this show. I tried once to listen to the London cast, but I had to stop. I just had to.
(Also, Fun-Fact: Mandy Patinkin, who plays Archibald Craven in the original Broadway cast of The Secret Garden played Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride. This continues to blow my mind.)
Sondheim’s music is crazy and rhythmic and downright brilliant.
The actors are superb. Chip Zein plays a heartbreaking baker. “No More” kills me, which is quite a feat since I am already dead from Lily’s voice. I need help.
There is quite a bit of music in this show, and Sondheim’s nimble lyrics tell the story so well through song that sometimes you forget they are singing. The characters are amazing, the story is beautiful, and the music moves effortlessly between rapid, almost rap-like movement and lyrical ballads. Listen to it. Listen to it until your family is so sick of it that they ban it from the house. Don’t tell me that’s not a good idea.
More Alan Menken. Because who doesn’t want more Alan Menken?
I grew up watching the animated movie. The movie is wonderful. The great thing about the show is that it gave us more songs. And many of them are VERY GOOD SONGS.
“Home” and “If I Can’t Love Her” are masterpieces and I love Alan Menken (as well as lyricist Tim Rice) for adding these priceless gems to an already dazzling array of songs.
Susan Egan and Terrence Mann lead this cast as Belle and the Beast and they do a magnificent job, (though I am mean and sometimes make fun of Terrence Mann’s inflection when he is speaking).
This show just came out. Like Beauty and the Beast, it is based on an animated film, and it has NEW SONGS. New songs that are as good as the old songs, which cannot be said for everything.
The show improves the story from the movie version. We had to say good-bye to Rasputin. This meant saying good-bye to Bartok, which I was somewhat sad about.
But Ramin Karimloo is taking over the bad guy position as Comrade Gleb, so all is forgiven.
Christy Altomare is Anya, and I love her voice. This is fortuitous, since she sings the majority of the time. Derek Klena, who plays Dmitri, has a voice that is also to my liking.
And the new songs. I am still in awe of the fact that I actually like most of them.
I wish I could mix and match the casts of Les Mis. My favorite Eponine is Lea Salogna, who is in the 10th Anniversary cast recording. (She is actually also my favorite Fantine, from the 25th Anniversary version, but shh.) My favorite Gavroche is Daniel Huttlestone from the movie. I didn’t even like the movie.
Anyhow, despite my favorite cast being spread far and wide, I have to say that the complete symphonic recording is my favorite just because it is COMPLETE. No, there is not enough music in the original Broadway cast recording. Give me more. Give me all of it.
Obviously this is something that I need.
This music is heart wrenching and there is so much pain and death I cannot help but fall in love with it.
Dear Evan Hansen, Aladdin, Wicked, A Tale of Two Cities
There are just too many shows to choose from.
When I am talking about Broadway I tend to get a bit long-winded for some reason, but now I will stop because I want to hear from you.
Do you listen to Broadway cast recordings? What are some of your favorites? Do you have any of the same ones as me? Do you prefer musicals that make you laugh or ones that leave you shaking in a battered heap of feelings on the floor? Please share in the comments!