Best Musical Theater Album - The Grammys
The Grammy Awards are set to air this Sunday, February 10th, and with all the pop superstars about to take center stage to receive accolades on national television, I thought it might be nice to recognize the nominee for “Best Musical Theater Album”. A category that both pertains to our musical theatre interests and one that will not be awarded on the network broadcast, “Best Musical Theater Album” has some strong nominees this year. All five of them are great albums, but only one can be named the victor. Here are my thoughts on each nominee.
The Band’s Visit (Ghostlight Records)
The most compelling new score of this season (and really of the last decade) is David Yazbek’s Tony-winning masterpiece for The Band’s Visit. A mesmerizing combination of subtlety and nuance, the show is well-preserved by Ghostlight Records. I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times I’ve played it through, stopping on “Omar Shariff” and hitting “replay” seven or eight times, just to hear Katrina Lenk finesse this glorious number, again and again. If Jesus Christ Superstar - Live In Concert doesn’t win this category, I believe that The Band’s Visit is the dark horse that will take home of the trophy.
Carousel (Craft Recordings)
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel is a score that I could listen to, again and again, and never get tired of it. The Craft Recordings preservation of the recent Broadway revival is a haunting album filled to the brim with great performances from the likes of Jessie Mueller, Joshua Henry, Renee Fleming, and Lindsay Mendez. My only wish is that it were longer, more complete. This recording could best be described as “Highlights from Carousel”, but between the production’s excising of certain songs and the album truncating the show further, I felt short-changed. Is wanting more of a good thing such a bad thing?
Jesus Christ Superstar - Live In Concert (Masterworks)
The live TV version of Jesus Christ Superstar is the cast album to beat in this category. My reasoning for this assumption, you might ask? Simple: Jesus Christ Superstar - Live In Concert aired on network television and is more-likely to have enjoyed greater exposure than the other nominees in this category. That is not to say that it is an inferior album. With John Legend, Sara Bareilles, Alice Cooper, and Brandon Victor Dixon headlining the piece, the album is certainly a conglomeration of A-List talent performing Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s time-honored score.
My Fair Lady (Broadway Records)
Quite an exquisite recording of the Lerner and Loewe classic (based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion), Broadway Records’ preservation of LTC’s My Fair Lady is proof in the pudding that this label stands for quality. Every note is pristinely- captured, every instrumentation lovingly-preserved. The score’s lushness, as it is heard in the theatre, is just as thrilling here. The My Fair Lady cast album puts you right in the room with stars Lauren Ambrose, Harry Hadden-Paton and Norbert Leo Butz. In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote the plot synopsis for the CD booklet, so I do feel a (thoroughly justified) paternal affection toward this one.
Once on This Island (Broadway Records)
In my humble opinion (I know, I am about as subtle as a chainsaw where humility is concerned), Once on The Island is the deserving winner in this category. Broadway Records has created a sumptuous cast album here, from the sound quality, to the CD packaging, from the glorious ensemble cast, to the album’s capture of the stage show’s energy. The Ahrens and Flaherty score has always been a delicious marriage of showtune with a Caribbean flavor, and it has never sound better than it does here. The cast, which includes Hailey Kilgore, Lea Salonga, and Alex Newell, explodes with boundless energy and a zesty charm.