New cast recordings of ‘Pippin,’ ‘Cinderella,’ ‘Dogfight’ bring out an inner theater queen
We recently reviewed the “it” musical of 2013, Kinky Boots — which won composer Cyndi Lauper her first Tony Award — but there are several other shows with new cast recordings — all available on Ghostlight Records — you should check out. (See also our review of Hands on a Hard Body, Page S15.)
As Kinky Boots was racking up awards and notices as the best new musical of 2013 Broadway season, the stealth hit was a revival: Stephen Schwartz’s 1973 historicomedy about the Holy Roman Empire, Pippin, just in stores. (The original production co-starred Fort Worth native Betty Buckley — see story on Page S4.)
The current production has been acclaimed for its Cirque du Soleil-like energy, but it’s the songs, many theater classics, that sells the CD: “Magic to Do,” “Corner of the Sky,” “Spread a Little Sunshine,” “No Time at All.” Schwartz’s lyrics were always in service of character and cleverness, and he gets some good’uns here, especially on the aforementioned “No Time at All.”
The production values on the disc are high, capturing the scale of the orchestrations while maintaining the intimacy of the show. And the inclusion at the end of four sing-alongs with actual B’way audiences gives the disc an interactive quality that every theater queen will appreciate.
Schwartz is great and all — we love his score to Wicked especially — but when it comes to Broadway musicals, there’s Rodgers + Hammerstein, and then there’s everyone else. In a collaboration that lasted fewer than 20 years, they turned out 10 musicals, including the film State Fair and the TV special Cinderella. It’s the latter, recently re-adapted for the stage by Douglas Carter Beane (who adds a distinctive camp sensibility), that is thrilling ears right now. From the pomp of the overture, where familiar chords to songs like “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible” and “Ten Minutes Ago,” you’re excited to be listening to a musical again. Hammerstein’s lyrics are as infectious as Rodgers’ buoyant melodies, all given life by a vocally adept cas,t including Laura Osnes, Santino Fontana and Victoria Clark.
Is the style somewhat old-fashioned? Yeah, so what’s your point? This is the kind of music that made Broadway. It ages like fine wine.
Set in the late 1960s as the Vietnam War is heating up, it’s the bittersweet tale of a soldier who brings a plain girl to a dance hoping to win the “dogfight” among his peers.
The score, by up-and-coming team of Benj Pasek (gay) and Justin Paul (straight), initially taps into wistful sound reminiscent of Spring Awakening, then reveals itself to have a diverse musical pedigree without becoming mere nostalgia songs a la Jersey Boys or Hairspray. It’s both tuneful and poignant, even when the lyrics reveal dark ideas, or as an aura of doom wafts over you as the soliders carelessly harmonize about heading to war. Dogfight is an existential musical masquerading as a romance. That’s quite a feat.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 23, 2013.