CD Reviews - 2012

by John Kenrick

(Copyright 2012)

End of the Rainbow - Broadway Cast Recording

(Masterworks Broadway)

Tracie Bennett invests her performance of Judy Garland's greatest hits with many of that great lady's legendary touches, but ultimately crafts them into a dazzling performance that is very much her own. Instead of a mere imitation, this is something original and fascinating in its own right. This excellent recording is not only a must-have for Garland fans, but also for those lucky enough to see this amazing show in its acclaimed London and New York runs, as well as anyone who loves the so-called "great American songbook.

Evita - Broadway Revival Cast

(Masterworks Broadway)

Evita without irony is just another bombastic Andrew Lloyd Webber score. That may be enough for some fans, but for those of us who still relish memories of the Harold Prince staging and the unforgettable performances of Patti Lupone, Mandy Patinkin and original New York company, this recording (like the revival it preserves) loses the biting edge that made this musical something to treasure. Elena Roger brings practically no emotional coloring to the title role, and Ricky Martin is appallingly bland as Che -- though he does pronounce the occasional Spanish phrase with flair. The standout performance comes from Broadway veteran Michael Cerveris, who invests the role of Juan Peron with the rich layers of ambiguity and acting talent that his costars so fatally lack. If you already own the original cast recording, this one is utterly unnecessary.

Newsies - Original Broadway Cast


The enthusiasm of the cast can only do so much to energize this relentlessly pedestrian score. Alan Menken, whose scores brought so much magic to the animated Disney musicals of the 1990s, seems to be composing by the numbers here. As a result, a so-so score that ignited interest among a small but dedicated cult of youthful listeners in its 1992 film incarnation is, if anything, even more pedestrian in this expanded stage version. It does not help that characters supposedly in their childhood to early teens are depicted by actors who are mostly in their 20s to 30s -- the singing is always a tad too polished, the acting oh so obviously calculated for effect. I suspect that in an age when schools and community theatres are starved for new family-friendly Broadway musicals, this show will have an extensive afterlife among amateurs. This recording will certainly please devout Newsies fans.

Once - Original Broadway Cast

(Broadway Masterworks)

It is a sad sad indeed when such a whiny, monotonous effort can sweep the Tonys and be acclaimed as a Broadway triumph. The songs have no relation to the boy-doesn't-get-girl plot, and the lack of any dramatic content makes this recording nothing but a collection of disconnected Irish pop folk rock songs. Or perhaps it should be Irish rock pop folk? Either way, I find it one extended yawn. The entire cast relies on the kind of tortured pop singing that makes my skin crawl. Fans of the show will probably be delighted with this CD, and they are welcome to it. As for my copy, it is now doing service as a coaster.

Ramin Karimloo - Human Heart

(Broadway Masterworks)

His main claim to international fame is that he played the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber's ill-advised sequel Love Never Dies. If the liner notes are accurate in stating that this whiny vocalist is "unquestionably one of musical theatre's modern greats," then it is easy to hear why musical theatre is in such wretched shape. Karimloo's breathy tenor technique and clumsy overacting (not surprising in one who is "self taught and still voraciously ambitious") might pass muster in the pop world, but I find him embarrassingly bad in this solo CD. Unless you are a blood relative, I doubt that this recording will be of any interest.

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