Thursday, 26 June 2008

No Me Diga

It’s always interesting to keep an eye and ear pointed towards Broadway to see just what is going on there, and to ponder what shows may make their way to the other side of “the pond”. Of course there are those amongst us that make regular forays to the big apple and see all of the new shows at first hand. I am not one of those people. Boo Hoo. However it’s well known that I am a CD addict so I do manage to discover some of these shows via their recordings. Obviously you can only get an idea of a show through the cast album but, let’s face it, the songs are pretty important when it comes to a musical.
I had high hopes of one of the current crop of Broadway Musicals. With a book by Harvey Fierstein and John Doyle as it’s director “A Catered Affair” is of immediate interest. Add to the equation song writer John Bucchino and I couldn’t wait to hear it. The show marks Bucchino’s first time on Broadway but he has long been a favourite of both musical theatre and cabaret performers in the states. His songs have been recorded by Barbara Cook, Maureen McGovern, Liza Minnelli. and Patti Lupone amongst many others and are always intelligent and witty songs. High hopes indeed.
The show has fifteen songs and three reprises, Sadly despite starry performances from Fierstein himself, Faith Prince and ex “Duke” Tom Wopat, the first ten songs barely improve on “dreary”. It’s a simple story about a couple who want a quick small wedding until their parents decide otherwise and take over. Even having listened to it a good few times these first ten songs fail to command my attention. In fact I am more inclined to give up on them and fast forward. Happily it all changes with the eleventh track, “One White Dress” where Janey (Leslie Kritzer) admits that she was never one of those “silly little girls” who had dreamed of a big wedding and all the attendant pomp and circumstance. Trying on the white dress, of the songs title, turns her head however and she becomes smitten with the idea of a white wedding and all that it entails. It’s a truly lovely song but this part of proceedings is a little late for a first good song! As the show draws to its finale we do get at least three more songs (and the three brief reprises) that have something going for them. Tom Wopat gives a moving performance of “I Stayed” where after stating that everything is “always my fault” strikes back and extols his own virtues! Janey and fiancé Ralph (Matt Cavenaugh) get a sweet ballad called “Don’t Ever Stop Saying I Love You”, and the poignant “Coney Island” between brother and sister, Fierstein and Prince, more or less brings proceedings to a close.
The future for “A Catered Affair” doesn’t seem to bright and it’s easy to understand given some of the failings of the shows old fashioned score. John Bucchino’s work will always be of interest though and something tells me that “One White Dress” is a song that will be used in many a concert engagement or cabaret in coming years.
For the latest Tony Award winning best musical “In The Heights” it goes without saying that the future is much brighter. It’s simple story is of the everyday lives of a group of Latin Americans in New York’s Washington Heights. At it’s heart the show is about dreams and , ironically for a city that many dream of going to, it’s of a desire to escape to somewhere else. The brainchild of Lin-Manuela Miranda who not only wrote the music and lyrics but also stars as Usnavi – who runs a Bodega which is a kind of coffee stand/paper stall, the album is catchy and engaging from the opening bars of it’s opening and title track.
From the very beginning the score evokes a hot day in the city. If I had to imagine the music of an urban summer then most of these sounds would feature in this show. Somehow it combines a current Broadway sound which conjures everything from Jason Robert Brown and “Rent” to “Annie”, with street music and latin sounds. Many of the songs feature a main melody with counter melodies sung in Spanish which are amazingly evocative of it’s setting. Somehow current trends such as hip-hop, r & b, and rap are alongside almost every type of Latin groove that you can imagine. Samba, Tango, Salsa – it’s all there. There really are some great songs. My particular favourite would have to be “Breathe” when Nina comes home from college revealing what a struggle it was. “Inutil” provides her father, Kevin with an opportunity to sing of what it means to be a father and “96,000” sums up the dreams of the entire neighbourhood as they hope to win the lottery- having heard that Usnavi sold the winning ticket. From the dramatic “Enough” to the energetic “Carnaval Del Barrio” and the touching “Sunrise” Miranda’s score is one that really get’s under your skin. Of course having talents like Andrea Burns, Mandy Gonzales and Priscilla Lopez (the original Morales in “A Chorus Line” ) on board it’s hard not to succeed.
I am not sure if “In The Heights” is a show that would work in London as it seems to be so very New York, but if you aren’t planning to go to NY any time soon it’s definitely worth following my example and logging on to order yourself a copy of this fantastic double album. Just find yourself doing a salsa!!!! You never can tell….

No comments: