Four Recent Cast Albums
By Marilyn Lester
Broadway Bounty Hunter (Ghostlight Records) the Off-Broadway musical co-written by Joe Iconis and Lance Rubin may well be remembered for Iconis’ music and lyrics rather than its offbeat plot about a down-on-her-luck actress who becomes a Kung-Fu bounty hunter late in life. Star Annie Golden fiercely belts out the show’s first number, “Woman of a Certain Age” to set the stage, while principal cast members Alan H. Green, Brad Oscar and Emily Borromeo with Badia Farha, Jasmine Forsberg, Omar Garibay, Jared Joseph and Christina Sajous provide additional vocals to move the tale along. Iconis’ music is a pop-rock mix of funk and soul that’s listenable, toe-tapping fun. The band features Geoffrey Ko (conductor, keyboard I), Zac Zinger (saxophone, woodwinds, keyboard II), Khrys Williams (trumpet, flugabone), Megan Talay (guitar), Amanda Ruzza (bass) and Rosa Avila (drums).
The Prince of Egypt (Ghostlight Records) features an epic, lush score, composed by Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote the lyrics. The book, by Philip LaZebnik is about the life of Moses who begins as a Prince of Egypt but follows his destiny to lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. The cast recording features the full company from the production in London’s West End: Luke Brady as Moses, Liam Tamne as Ramses, Christine Allado as Tzipporah, Alexia Khadime as Miriam, Gary Wilmot as Jethro, Tanisha Spring as Nefertari, Silas Wyatt-Barke as Aaron, Joe Dixon as Seti, Debbie Kurup as Queen Tuya, Adam Pearce as Hotep and Mercedesz Csampai as Yocheved. The recording features 10 new songs by Schwartz plus his Academy Award-winning number “When You Believe” from the 1998 Disney/Dreamworks film that served as the source material for the musical. To do justice to the lush score, an orchestra of almost 60 artists was assembled, playing the orchestrations of August Eriksmoen and arrangements by Dominick Amendum.
When Rags debuted on Broadway in 1986, with book by Joseph Stein, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, it was considered a flop. The musical has gone through several revisions since then, with the latest being a 2017 production at The Goodspeed Opera House, which found its way to the UK. This latest incarnation of Rags has a new book by David Thompson, plus new songs by Schwartz and Strouse. The revision played the Park Theater in London, in January 2020. It’s this production that has yielded the new cast recording of Rags The Musical (Ghostlight Records), about a Russian immigrant, Rebecca, who, with her son David, travels to America in search of a better life. The principal cast is Carolyn Maitland as Rebecca, Dave Willetts as Avram and Sam Attwater as Bronfman. Musicians playing the tuneful score are Joe Bunker, keys; Nathan Gregory, drums/percussion; Sarah Campbell, trumpet; Yusuf Narcin, trombone, Arhur Boan and Angela Caesar, violins, Natasha Karp, clarinet and Dan Giles, double bass.
Frankie! The Musical (Broadway Records) is a concept cast album, with music and lyrics by teen writer Elise Marra, about a teen lesbian struggling with her own coming of age. The recording stars Tony nominee Caitlin Kinnunen (The Prom), Jason Gotay (Evita), Jason SweetTooth Williams (Be More Chill), Autumn Hurlbert (Legally Blonde), Allie Trimm (13) and Delphi Borich (Cinderella). Benjamin Weiss (The Lion King) serves as musical director for the project. Musically, the tracks show potential from this youthful composer. Marra is a 16-year-old from Michigan who plays six instruments and completed her first musical at age 13. She’s written four original musicals and four original plays since then. At age 12 she published two novels as J.E. Bean. Clearly accomplished, Marra as a composer writes pleasant but similar tunes lacking in complexity. Rather they serve as vehicles for the lyric. The songs are story-driven, suitably reflecting the angst and circumstances that drive the plot.