By Marilyn Lester
The 2003 feel-good movie, Secondhand Lions, set in 1960s Texas, told the lively, charming tale of a lonely boy who’s sent by his avaricious mother to spend the summer with two eccentric great uncles who are rumored to be sitting on a large fortune. With Robert Duvall and Michael Caine in the leads, who wouldn’t be charmed. Ten years later, a musical based on the film, written by Michael Weiner, Rupert Holmes and Alan Zachary, premiered at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, WA. The piece didn’t have much of a run thereafter, but it does now have a impressive cast recording all these years later. Convening for the event, original cast members Gregg Edelman (Garth McCann) and Jason Danieley (Sultan) were joined by James Naughton (Hub McCann) and Trey Middleton, as young Walter, to bring the CD to sprightly life. With a pleasing country-infused score, the relatively short numbers over 20 tracks keep the story, which includes some pretty tall tales, moving along with a generous dollop of fun. An amusing cut song, “The Fort Worth College of Court Reporting” is a bonus, a demo sung with gusto by Stephanie J. Block. Music director Dominick Amendum leads a top-notch orchestra of eighteen players who know what to do with a Broadway-style tune.
I Put A Spell On You
A digital album, I Put A Spell On You, is an expanded version of Jay Armstrong Johnson’s annual concert-meets-party spoof of, and tribute to, the cult classic movie Hocus Pocus. The recording features a cast of Broadway stars turned Disney villains. This year, the Hocus Pocus-inspired Sanderson Sisters break the internet and recruit some of pop culture’s most iconic villains (Cruella de Vil, Gaston, The Joker, Maleficent and more) to fulfill their delightfully devious plot. Johnson returns as Winifred Sanderson with Allison Robinson and Amanda Williams Ware as sisters Sarah and Mary. Also featured are Tony award-winner Gavin Creel (Hello, Dolly!), Nick Rashad Burroughs (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical), Drew Gehling (Waitress), J. Harrison Ghee (Mrs. Doubtfire), Todrick Hall (Kinky Boots), Tony nominee Robyn Hurder (Moulin Rouge! The Musical), Julia Mattison (Godspell), Eva Noblezada (Hadestown), and Will Swenson (Waitress. Spooky fun!
The album is available wherever digital music is sold in conjunction with a digital version of the concert. Proceeds from both the album and the live stream benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. To download the album, go to BroadwayRecords.com/spell.
Jaime Lozano & The Familia: Songs by an Immigrant
Recently released is Jaime Lozano & The Familia: Songs by an Immigrant, an eclectic collaboration of musical theatre, jazz, Mexican folklore, Tex-Mex, and Latin musicians and performers. The twelve tracks deal with the immigrant experience: finding a new home, learning a new language, dealing with discrimination, trying to fit in, pursuing the American dream, being in love and missing one’s native land. Included among the roster of Latin artists are musicians Antonio Sánchez and Jorge Glem, and vocalists Raul Midon, Marcial Istúriz, Mandy Gonzalez, Bobby Pulido and Ana Isabelle. Lozano is a musician, vocal coach, composer, arranger, orchestrator, musical producer and musical theater director from Monterrey, Mexico, who’s put together a remarkable work, full of pathos but without being maudlin. After all, this subject matter is hard on the soul. The immigrant experience is emotionally wracking––for those courageous enough to better their lives despite the obstacles and for those sensitive enough to empathize with their plight. Jaime Lozano & The Familia: Songs by an Immigrant tells the story without missing a beat––and the album works because it’s heartfelt and authentic. For variety, among the several ballads are uptunes; “Dreamer” has a pop-rock beat, while “You Gotta Change Your Name” has a Broadway-pop feel. Two numbers are in Spanish: “Hecho Para Amarte” and “Venezuela.” It’s the first track that sets up the album perfectly. “The Generic Immigrant Welcome Song,” with its strong Latin-salsa beat is pretty clever and amusing on one hand, but on the other, is achingly painful. This song is satire that packs one heck of a wallop. Jaime Lozano & The Familia: Songs by an Immigrant benefits from very high production values, with plenty of melodic and harmonic zest.
Lea Salonga Live in Concert with the Sydney Symphony
About to become available digitally and as a CD (November 27), Lea Salonga Live in Concert with the Sydney Symphony captures the diva from a performance at the Sydney Opera House. Simultaneous to the release, the concert will also air on PBS as a Great Performances Concert on Friday, November 27th as part of their “Broadway’s Best” lineup. Among the 16 tracks are signature songs from her animated movies, Aladdin (“A Whole New World”––featuring Mat Verevis) and Mulan (“Reflection”), as well as from her Broadway career, including “Why God Why,” the showstopper from Miss Saigon originally sung to her by fellow cast member, the very talented Tony-winner, Willy Falk. Over her four-decade career, Salonga’s light soprano has maintained its clarity and energy. Now with a substantial repertoire available to her, she interprets each number with intelligence and depth, from the standard, “Meadowlark” to the pop-rock “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” Salonga has established herself as a solid performer, with acting and singing chops indisputably proven. (Note: in August, Salonga released s single “Dream Again,” with all profits donated to charities aiding in COVID-19 relief around the world, including The Actor’s Fund.)