The Robber Bridegroom: The Show and the Cast Recording Stole My Heart
Rarely do I see a show more than twice. Usually, two-times is sufficient for me to drink in its music, its characterizations, its staging and its score. The Roundabout Theatre Company’s Off-Broadway revival of The Robber Bridegroom is one of the rare times where I returned to a show, again and again, delighted each time by something new or that I had missed the first time around. In all, I saw The Robber Bridegroom seven times before the production shuttered at the Laura Pels Theatre. Now, we have a new cast recording courtesy of Ghostlight Records and it has made me fall in love with the production all over again.
For a while, it seemed unlikely that this production would be recorded. Many regarded it as show that didn’t need a new recording, deeming it neither a popular enough title nor an exciting enough production. This is nonsense, because the RTC production was musically far superior to the original cast recording (an uneven affair) and needed to be preserved. Thank the heavens that Ghostlight Records swooped in at the last-minute and saved the day. The result is a foot stompin’, hootin’ n’ hollerin’, good time, a cast album that you will play again and again, and delight in every nuance, joke and catchy melody it provides.
The criticism I have heard the most about The Robber Bridegroom is that people just don’t care for country music, so the Alfred Uhry/Robert Waldman score is not for them. I recommend giving it a repeated listening. It’s not just country, but a crazy quilt of country, bluegrass, folk, and even just a touch of pop music. Each song contains unforgettable melodies and witty, poetic lyrics that tell wonderful stories, deepen your understanding of the characters, and create an atmosphere that is all of one piece. I am not an enormous fan of country music, but I found so much to love in this production and the score is at the top of that list. I am reveling in this new cast recording because it so perfectly helps me to relive what I loved so much onstage.
Steven Pasquale has a lovely voice, so everything he sings as the two-faced title character is golden, nuanced and just plain pretty. “I Steal with Style” brims with sly wit, while his “Love Stolen” is seductive and cocky. Ahna O’Reilly as the love interest Rosamund gives a silky rendition of the musical’s most well-known number “Sleepy Man”. Leslie Kritzer steals the album with her saucy, sassy, revolting villainess Salome. Her rendition of “The Prickle Pear Bloom” is a comedic highlight, dripping with caustic sarcasm and bravura, over-the-top humor. She caresses each note with a with a strangulated whine that squeezes the hilarity out of each moment. The number that delights me the most if “Poor Tied Up Darlin’” sung between a scheming con named Little Harp (Andrew Durand) and a hillbilly idiot known as “The Goat Boy” (Greg Hildreth). Durand shined throughout the show, vocally and comedically, and Hildreth was spot-on in his humorous delivery, When they came together, it is comic genius. I could listen to this duet again and again. The chorus sounds great, everyone working in tandem to keep the energy flowing. The big opening/closing number “Once Upon the Natchez Trace” is brilliantly executed and crisply captured here. In fact, the sound is particularly clear on this album.
Perhaps the finest part of The Robber Bridegroom is the hypnotic spectrality within certain songs such as "Deeper in the Woods" and "Sleepy Man". Each number, haunting unto itself, has a dreamy otherworldliness that transports us into a dizzying fogginess that is the world of The Robber Bridegroom. This was a most arresting element of the stage production that is so expertly captured on this new cast recording. The atmosphere felt in the Laura Pels feels almost tangible as you let these songs enfold you in their poetic arms.
I think if you spend some time with this recording of The Robber Bridegroom you’ll find it deserved a place in your collection. I am ecstatic to have it to listen to, again and again, and I urge everyone to give it’s charms a try.