Everything about the experience was a sweet rush of sense memory. From peeling off the cellophane wrapping, to opening the fold and reading the liner notes, I was in Heaven. And, happily, the whole package is wonderful. I especially appreciate the inclusion of a complete lyrics sheet, which allows you to read them without manhandling the album cover or a disc sleeve if they had been printed either place.
So, how's the record? Awesome! I fell in love with the show immediately (my review HERE), and revisiting the Chad Beguelin-Matthew Sklar score brought back a flood of images from a great, fun evening at the theater. But it also allows for exciting discoveries - Easter eggs, if you will. In short, there are hilarious bits, sharp turns of phrase, and a sweet sentimentality. My favorite thing is getting to listen to the salute to Broadway woven throughout this delicious score. Among my favorites are the tributes to Godspell and Evita, made all the more glorious by the belty vocals of Tony nominee Beth Leavel.
As in the show, the second record offers up tour de force performances, one after the other. It would be unfair - impossible, even - to pick out a favorite, because I enjoy each for entirely different reasons. Act Two begins with that Chicago-esque/Fosse gem, "Zazz," featuring my favorite Broadway hoofer, Angie Schworer, and continues with that scathing (and riotously funny) indictment on the right, "Love Thy Neighbor," featuring Christopher Sieber. But the real standouts come from Leavel, who absolutely kills it with the faux signature number, "The Lady's Improving," and her fellow Tony nominee, Brooks Ashmanskas, who has never been better than he is in the utterly joyous "Barry Is Going to Prom."
Each act ends with fabulous production numbers and they come across very well here. But, alas, they also point out the one shortcoming of this album. There are no videos or even written instructions for how to do those Casey Nicholaw dances!!
(Photos by J. Kyler)