Thursday, January 9, 2020

MUSICAL OF THE MONTH: Applause: The Cast Recording

The next installment of our new Musical of the Month series is here! Today, we look at the Original Broadway Cast Recording of this month's featured show, Applause.

The winner of the 1970 Best Musical Tony**, Applause featured a score by Charles Strouse (music) and Lee Adams (lyrics). The orchestrations, by Donald Pippin, are rich and lush, a great combination of the traditional Broadway sound and the distinct late 60's/early 70's sound (think Promises Promises and Company). It is one of my favorite complete scores, and I particularly enjoy the sharp lyrics. I also appreciate that performance in character was favored over perfect song stylings, as this piece depends on strong, broad (yet specific) characterizations.

Favorite songs include "Think How It's Gonna Be" sung by Len Cariou (making his Broadway musical debut), the production number "Applause" led by spitfire Bonnie Franklin, and the blistering "One Hallowe'en" ferociously delivered by Penny Fuller. There is also a pair of numbers at the start of act two that are catchy and feature delightful wordplay featuring Ann Williams and Brandon Maggart that tickle me and are just plain fun to sing along to - "Inner Thoughts" and "Good Friends." And the always wonderful (early in his career here, though) Lee Roy Reams is fabulous in his featured bits in several numbers as well.

Lauren Bacall - "But Alive"

Lauren Bacall would have probably been one of the first to tell you she didn't have a great singing voice. But even on the recording, you can hear why she won the Best Actress in a Musical Tony. What an actress! You can hear the joy in her voice in the fantastic production number, "But Alive." There is pain in her voice when she sings about her far away love in "Hurry Back," and the defiant anger (and spot on assessment of the biz) in "Welcome to the Theater."

As I said, the score for Applause is one of my absolute favorites, and the show itself is just as good. If you haven't gotten around to this gem, I'd definitely recommend adding this one to your cast recording collection.

Grade: A


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