Friday, November 1, 2019

The Friday 5: 5 Favorite Rock Album Musicals

Seems like most of us have a love/hate relationship with jukebox musicals. For every one that works, there seems to be two or three that don't. There is one sub-genre I pretty much love though: the musicals that come from concept albums - the subject of this week's Friday 5. I like this so much, I named 6! Perhaps these five six albums/shows are why I'm really looking forward to Jagged Little Pill, though I'm not sure if Alanis Morissette intended her seminal work to be destined for a staging from the outset. And I am very excited for the upcoming revival of Tommy!

The Friday 5 6:
5 6 Favorite Rock Album Musicals
(In chronological order of first performance)

1. Jesus Christ Superstar (Rice/Lloyd Webber) 
Album 1970, Broadway 1971, West End 1972

I remember the bi-fold "brown" album on the rack of records under our stereo when I was a little boy. I'm pretty sure my mother wore out the part of the disc that was "I Don't Know How To Love Him." I love it and the show that came from it. I've seen some great productions and some really awful ones (the most recent Broadway revival, for example). But the score gets me every time.

2. The Who's Tommy (Pete Townsend/The Who) 
Album 1969, Film 1975, Broadway 1992, West End 1996

To be honest, I never heard a single note of this epic rock score until I saw a preview of the show at the St. James Theatre. I was the odd man out - everyone around me was cheering each song like they were welcoming a war hero home. I'll never forget the lady who sat next to me wiggling with excitement, tears of joy pouring down her face. Her enthusiasm was contagious - I adored every single minute of it. The other thing I remember distinctly was the complete silence and lack of movement in the house when Captain and Mrs. Walker sang "I Believe My Own Eyes." For everyone in the audience, it was a new Who song. The applause after stopped the show.

3. Evita (Rice/Lloyd Webber) 
Album 1976, West End 1978, Broadway 1979

My introduction to this work was a recording of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" by the Carpenters. Karen was, of course, wonderful, if not Patti LuPone. In fact, I didn't know it was first a concept album. Now, it is one of my favorite scores and shows of all time.

4. Chess (Rice/Ulveaus/Andersson) 
Album 1984, West End 1986, Broadway 1988

If you read the website with any regularity, you know that I adore this score. Like many people my age, "One Night in Bangkok" was my favorite song of my senior year in high school. I bought the double album and soaked it up like a sponge. Since then, I've come to love the OBCR, and especially the "new" song, "Someone Else's Story." (❤ Judy Kuhn) I've seen several productions of the show, too. I really like it - especially the version with the new book that they performed a few years ago at the Kennedy Center.

5. American Idiot (Armstrong/Green Day) 
Album 2004, Broadway 2010, West End 2015

Again, if you are a frequent visitor to this site, you know that I wasn't particularly enthralled by this show the first time I saw it. But I have come to love it. I've seen it many times, and each time I get more out of it, ditto just listening to the cast recording. I realize songs from other Green Day albums were interpolated into the story, but I admire that the rock group had musicalization in mind from the outset.

6. Hadestown (Mitchell) 
Album 2010, Off-Broadway 2016, West End 2018, Broadway 2019

The most recent success in this sub-genre is, arguably, my favorite. It is perfection from start to finish. I can't wait to see it again. What I've heard of the OBCR is just as amazing as the show itself (looking forward to the CD). I hope this isn't the last we've heard from Anais Mitchell on Broadway!

One of the best things about this sub-genre, for me at least, is that I've come to appreciate the work of musicians I hadn't previously given a thought to - thank you, Pete, Billie Joe and Anais!


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