Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters in the original Broadway production of Sunday in the Park with George (Martha Swope/©Billy Rose Theatre Division, NYPL for the Performing Arts)

More Cast Recordings To Quarantine By

By Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

As the days of social distancing move along, I continue to discover gems of musical theater. In this installment, I ran into a few issues in tracking down some of the recordings. Choir Boy, a play with music that had a stellar performance on the Tonys last year and a recent high light of Pandora Productions’ truncated season, proved especially difficult. As for Victor/Victoria, I could piece together tracks from the film starring Julie Andrews yet a comprehensive cast recording was beyond my reach. Honestly if that’s my biggest “issue” during quarantine, I’d say I am doing alright. 

Waitress: After finally giving Sarah Bareilles’ musical a long overdue listen, I was overjoyed by the delightful score. Finally making its way to Louisville in 2021 after the cancellation of the 2018 tour date due to the fire at Kentucky Performing Arts, this show deserves to be seen. Based on a movie by the same name, the story follows a small-town waitress in a rural diner who has big dreams. The music and lyrics are witty, smart, and full of Bareilles’ signature pop sensibility.

Legally Blonde: This show seems to be taking local companies by storm. And honestly I’ve lost count how many times it has been performed in the last few years. The music is as upbeat and peppy as lead character Elle Woods and her sorority sisters and manages to legitimize itself beyond the surface gloss. The message is positive and stays true to the movie. It’s a crowd-pleaser at best.

title of show: Like Legally Blonde, this one is popular too. The show is meta yet self-aware, post-modern yet simplistic and has no frills. The music is well written and very funny. The stripped-down nature of the show is perfect for any company that has limits on budget or space. “Secondary Characters” is a stand out track. I absolutely loved this one.

Sunday in the Park with George: I cannot state how reluctant I have always been to give Stephen Sondheim a chance. I found his music to be overwhelming at times, needlessly complex and inaccessible to general audiences. Oh, boy was I wrong. After listening to the original cast with Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, I was enthralled by the beauty of this work. This one is an original and untouchable opus. “Sunday” causes chills and “Move On” is heartbreaking.

Starlight Express: I am glad I listened to this one. “Lotta Locomotion” and “He Whistled at Me” are absolutely wonderful for chasing away the quarantine blues. To mention the bawdy, tacky nature of this show would be obvious. Like Cats, it’s a musical for the sake of a musical. Just surrender yourself to be entertained by singing trains on roller skates.

Annie Get Your Gun: Big, brassy, and quintessential Irving Berlin. It starts with a celebratory bang with “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and just keeps going. This is one of the greats of musical theater with iconic numbers such as “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” and “You Can’t Get A Man with a Gun” featured within the libretto. And when it comes to the leading lady, you cannot resist a character like sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson:  Combining one of the least popular presidents – one with a very sordid history, with a punk rock sensibility, Jackson is reshaped into a whiny emo boy with emotive power ballads like “I’m Not That Guy” and “The Saddest Song.” Think American Idiot meets 1776.

Merrily We Roll Along: This one struck me deeply. Another Sondheim score that has made me reconsider my stance on that celebrated composer. The music is catchy and the lyrics are relatable. The title song gets stuck in your head for days while “Opening Doors” is absolutely an earworm. What intrigues me most is, the production uses a series of vignettes focused on three friends as they make their way as musical theater artists and how their successes and struggles impact each other. 

And honorable mentions… 

Bright Star: Uplifting, folky and sweet. “Sun is gonna shine” is quite lovely.
Matilda: Kids rule in this musical. Not to mention the fun and adventurous score.
Boy From Oz: A fabulous jukebox musical based on Peter Allen’s relationship with Judy and Liza, but it really should never be performed without Hugh Jackman. 

From left, Manu Narayan, Jessie Austrian and Ben Steinfeld in “Merrily We Roll Along” at the Laura Pels Theater in Manhattan. Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

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 as well. Thanks for reading!