Broadway Musical Musings: The New Cast Recording of She Love Me
The definitive cast recording of any Broadway musical is always a matter of personal preference, so it is really hard to state that one particular recording supersedes all others. One person might make an argument for a particular performer, others might prefer a certain sound quality, while still others are attracted to the perfect packaging. Since I will not assert that personal preferences are wrong (what's that? It's okay to have differing opinions?), I won't call the new cast recording of the 2016 revival of She Loves Me “definitive”. I will, however, call it “MY definitive” and I am certain that it will be my go-to recording of the show for decades to come.
Ghostlight Records have captured, with exquisite taste, clarion sound, and sublime accuracy, the the show that delighted and startled at Studio 54 earlier this year. This makes a wonderful case for She Loves Me, which continues to be one of the finest and most underappreciated musicals Broadway has ever presented. Laura Benanti as Amalia Balash was a sight to behold onstage, and though we don’t get her quirky facial expressions, we feel them with each interesting inflection on this recording. She sings superbly, but she also manages to infuse each song with humor that paints the picture of her comically twitchy and absurdly melodramatic performance. Even if you didn’t get to see her sing “Vanilla Ice Cream” onstage, you can bet your boots that, on this recording, she conjures every image of how she acted it. She’s that evocative with her voice. Similar praise can be spent for Jane Krakowski, who is always good for a certain dippy cluelessness in a character. Her Illona Ritter is blithely oblivious on this recording, especially in her big second act number “A Trip to the Library.” What works for Krakowski is she maneuvers between a sultry scald and an aloof dopiness, and though she sounds a bit cartoonish, it keeps her character fun instead of pathetic. Zachary Levi may not be the best sung Georg Nowalk, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t the funniest and most-accessible. It’s easy to forgive where he isn’t always as vocally comfortable, because a humanity and palpable charm come through on this recording that make us root for him. His rendition of the title song may feel a tad wobbly, but he’s also a tad winsome in his wobbliness. Isn’t that who Georg is, after all? An uptight man masking a lack of confidence who is suddenly released from his straightjacket into unfettered, awkward joy? Wobbliness works here and comes through delightfully on the recording as as he examines the characters of trepidation, spontaneity and exuberance.
The packaging for this recording of She Loves Me is lovingly executed and expertly laid out. Though I would prefer a jewel case instead of the cardboard encasement, this is a minor quibble when you revel in each gorgeous picture of the accompanying booklet. Never have so many production shots been so carefully chosen and perfectly grouped. The booklet is a rare bijou, a shimmering example of what every cast recording deserves, but so seldom gets. It’s subject is worthy of such resplendence.
The sound quality of the CD is sparkling, as pure as the driven snow making this recording a delight to listen to. Particular standouts are the ensemble numbers such as “Good Morning, Good Day”, “Sounds While Selling” and “Twelve Days to Christmas”, lyrically complex songs that are best understood with precision sound quality. Ghostlight ensures that each and every word is heard.
As I said, this may or may not be the definitive She Loves Me recording, but it certainly makes an excellent case for itself. Any collector or fan of top-notch cast recordings will want this version of She Loves Me, whether or not it is (by their terms) definitive. When something preserves this much talent with such attention to detail and style, it just becomes necessary to own. Treat yourself, dear friend.