Gifts of Love: Holiday Wish List for Broadway Enthusiasts
Whether we want to admit it or not, the holidays are here. Since tickets to Hamilton seem like an unlikely present this Christmas or Hanukkah (unless you bought them six months ago or don’t mind waiting until 2020 to see it), the Broadway musical enthusiast will have to look elsewhere for gift ideas to put on their wish list. Fortunately, there are a great many wonderful and unique options guaranteed to make every musical theatre fan a happy camper this holiday season.
Noel, Tallulah, Cole, and Me
By John C. Wilson, Thomas S. Hischak and Jack Macauley
I wrote a review of this exciting book in one of my earlier blogs, and I stand by my recommendation that this is one of the most enjoyable and unexpected books of 2015. Noel, Tallulah, Cole, and Me is full of untold stories about the golden age of Broadway. John C. Wilson was the director of the original Broadway productions of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Kiss, Me Kate, as well as lovers with Noel Coward. If you are in the mood for some fascinating anecdotes about Carol Channing, Cole Porter, Tallulah Bankhead, and dozens of other of the glitterati of the theatre of yesteryear, this book is sure to delight.
Cry-Baby: The Musical
Studio Cast Recording
Of the cast recordings that I have reviewed this year and/or listened to, Broadway Records’ Cry-Baby simply made me smile thanks to its joy, wit and catchy melodies. This musical, based on the popular John Waters film of the same name, may not have lasted for very long on Broadway, but it is destined to have a long and healthy life in regional theatres, summer stocks and community theatres thanks to this expertly crafted studio cast recording featuring most of the original Broadway cast. If lively and fun are your bag, Cry-Baby is a recording you will want in your collection.
DVD and Blu-Ray
Cathy Rigby’s expert interpretation aside, the Mary Martin, filmed-for-television version of Peter Pan is a must-have for anyone who loves older musicals and insists on Broadway music with discernible melodies. This affectionately remembered made-for-TV version has flown to Blu-Ray and is still as charming and magical as it ever was. This is a perfect way to introduce kids to the idea of a Broadway musical and it is guaranteed to sprinkle some pixie dust on even the most-curmudgeonly adult. A special shout out to the late Cyril Ritchard who is the dandiest of all Captain Hooks.
On the Town
2014 Revival Cast Recording
On the Town is a musical that will never go away. The music is too wonderful and the concept so perfectly implausible, it is a valentine to the possibilities and the allure of the Big Apple. This new recording of the 2014 Broadway revival is the definitive On the Town, delicious performances married to completeness in capturing the score as it has never been preserved before. PS Classics simply gets it right at every turn.
Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway
By Michael Riedel
If you like your reading on American Theatre gossipy and teaming with soap opera titillation, Michael Riedel’s Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway will take you by the hand and walk you through the stories behind the scenes that have resulted in the creation of some of Broadway’s biggest shows. Hugh Jackman called this book a “love letter to Broadway” which is a bit misleading. It is better described as an unrelenting expose on how Broadway works, tarnishing its shine a little, but brimming with love for the institution of theatre.
Billy Elliott: The Musical Live!
The Tony Award-winning Best Musical of 2009, Billy Elliott, recently came to DVD and Blu-Ray and the good news is that it captures most of the magic of the original stage production. There is an intimacy that the camera brings that heightens the experience of Billy Elliott, drawing us in close to this family struggling through a strike even as the titular boy finds escape and happiness through dance. What works best about Billy Elliott is how it celebrates the performing arts as a way to make the unbearable, bearable. For this reason alone, it belongs amongst your collection. And of course there are the electric songs of Elton John and Lee Hall.
Broadway Cares Legends Series:
Barbra Streisand Ornament
I have to make a push for this item, not just because Broadway Cares is a worthy organization, but because the ornaments in this collection are so damn cute. Anyone who has seen the whimsical Liza Minnelli ornament of last year knows that this line of collector ornaments are perfection. This year’s installment features Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, poised in front of her “greatest star” and her knees awkwardly turned in. It’s a delightful caricature of an iconic character and an even more iconic perfomer.
Original Broadway Cast Recording
Another Broadway Records triumph is the original cast recording of Kander and Ebb’s The Visit starring the great Chita Rivera. The Visit was not for everyone, a very stylized show with a story that may have been hard for some to digest. What it does have is a haunting score that features Kander and Ebb in one of their more reflective and melancholy modes. Rivera is always wonderful and the original cast recording of The Visit features this resplendent diva doing what she does best: immersing herself into a challenging role. Listening to her hypnotic rendition of “Love and Love Alone” is to fall in love with her all over again.
Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano
Oh, Stephen Sondheim fans, you are in for a rare treat. Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano is a three-disc wonder of innovation and creativity celebrating the greatest of Broadway composers. Musicians from a wide-variety of music genres (jazz, pop, film scores, classical) were assembled and given the challenge to take a song by Stephen Sondheim and reinterpret the piece for the piano. The results are fascinating, including titles such as “Johanna in Space”, “The Worst [Empanadas] in London” and “A Child of Children and Art.” Thirty-seven songs altogether, reimagined for your listening pleasure.
The Golden Apple
First Full-Length Recording
I always admire PS Classics and their commitment to preserving musical theatre scores in their entirety. Their studio cast recording of the beloved flop musical The Golden Apple is a testament to the label’s vision and tenacity. The original cast recording of The Golden Apple featured an abridged score with 87 minutes of music that went unrecorded. The Lyric Stage of Irving, Texas produced The Golden Apple and PS Classics was there to get the entire score preserved for posterity. It’s a lovingly produced album full of glorious voices who make this also-ran musical sound like a sparkling hit. If you have never encountered The Golden Apple, trust me when I tell you that this is a special musical that deserves this unparalleled cast album.