Josh Groban in Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812. Photo:AP
By Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
By my estimates, I have explored nearly 90 cast recordings since March when we were all sent home. I have thoroughly enjoyed some and others, I could do without. My opinions about Sondheim have changed, as have my thoughts on movie-to-stage adaptations. For this, my eighth and final installment, I decided to tap into some of the greats of Broadway and some of my personal favorite collaborators.
Bring It On: Yeah, it’s corny and peppy just like a teen movie. But this collaboration from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Kitt, and Amanda Green had some surprisingly entertaining moments like “Killer Instincts” and “Tryouts,” just to name a few. And honestly, the cheerleading motif would give good opportunities for fun choreography and stage tricks.
Can Can. Cole Porter’s vintage and obscure musical about burlesque in turn of the century France was just a lot of fun. With songs like “Carefree” and “Live and Let Live,” the overall message encourages its listener to enjoy the moment. Following Cole Porter, I call attention to Irving Berlin’s
Call Me Madam. At best it is a political spoof made famous by Ethel Merman as Sally Adams, a hapless but likable socialite. “The Hostess with the Mostest on the Ball” and “They Like Ike” proves that some things never change in politics.
Promises, Promise: This one brought the collaboration of Burt Bacharach and Neil Simon to my attention as well. This adaptation of Billy Wilder’s Academy-Award winning film, The Apartment, breathes new life into Bacharach’s swinging hits like “Knowing When to Leave” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”
Scottsboro Boys: Moving on to John Kander and Fred Ebb, who I will always admire, and their fascinating re-telling of a brutal moment in American history with Scottsboro boys. In true Kander and Ebb fashion, they mix the gritty political incorrectness of a minstrel show with a pivotal moment in our nation’s struggle with inequality. It’s fearless and honest and I would love to see it one day.
Shuffle Along: This show presented a limited cast recording. Frankly, it’s some of the best of Broadway. Audra Mcdonald soprano shines while Billy Porter’s vocals slay.
Unsinkable Molly Brown: Based on the Titanic’s most vivacious survivor and turned into a movie starring Debbie Reynolds. “I Aint Down Yet” was an entertaining high point during an otherwise forgettable show.
Sister Act: I have finally been able to experience the film to stage adaption. With the source material a jukebox musical in its own right, the cast recording borrows from 1960s girl groups with boppy tunes like “Do the Sacred Mass” and “Raise Your Voice.”
Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812. This large scale re-enactment of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace follows in the tradition of Les Mis and Miss Saigon. Not only does this cast recording include Josh Groban’s Broadway debut but also a literal miniature opera within the pop operetta itself. It goes without saying that Dear Evan Hansen robbed this show of the Tony it deserved.
Grey Gardens: The final show on my list. A show being produced by Chicken Coop Productions that I was set to cover earlier this season before it was postponed. The musical follows a mother-daughter pair of shut-ins, socially distanced in their own way from their ties to the Kennedy family and the rest of the world. I am eager to return to a theater to see how Little Edie spins her flags and dances her tap dance. I am eager to see the transformation this duo endures from promise and style to squalor and obscurity. “Another Summer in a Winter Town” is a bittersweet reminder of the tragedy that befell the Beales in their fall from grace. “Around the World” delicately explores Edie’s escape within her possessions from the struggles of codependency with her mother. I look forward to seeing both musical numbers on stage.
Not only that, I look forward to watching live actors; some of them friends, some who are familiar talents in the community. The theater scene in Louisville is rich and diverse in content and performance. The possibilities for any one of these shows listed within this series would make a wonderful addition to the upcoming season. We may not know when we can sit in front of a live performance again or how many patrons will be allowed in the audience at this point in time. When that time comes, we WILL go on with the show.
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!