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My favourite musical recordings of 2014

Just as I did last year I’m going to round up my 6 favourite musical theatre recordings of 2014, because there are so many CDs. And it’s always nice to know what other people recommend, right?

No, they are not in order. I don’t do orders. Not on these kind of posts at least.

1) Bridges (The Bridges of Madison County). Because: You know me. Maybe I just make that up, but listening to this recording makes you able to hear how much the musicians and singers actually loved this music – and it gives you this impression to witness something really cool about musical theatre. The score seems to become alive before your very ears, the music you are to hear when listening to this album seems to be so much more than an acustic version of dots between lines with fancy marks around them (for the record: this is not how I actually describe music.). This music breathes and appears to be something dynamic and therefore it is something more than entertaining. It’s touching, moving, tearing your heart out and stuffing it back in. And I am still pretty sure that – if you just listen carefully enough – this will change you. To test it, please expose yourself to Steven Pasquale’s amazing ‘It all fades away’, possibly listening on good headphones, high volume and just try not to crack up.

2) the Broadway recording of Rocky. It’s true, I have a special relationship with this show. It was first shown in Hamburg, Germany, I’ve listened to the German recording a couple of times, more often than not walking away, embarrassed. Anyway during my first visit in New York I heard Liz Callaway sing ‘Raining’ at 54below and suddenly it made sense. I saw it on Broadway in April then and listened to the recording. First: Anything featuring ‘Eye of the Tiger’ is great, try riding your bike across the city, uphill, in a warm-ish summer night, listening to that song! And then: In English it makes much more sense. And thirdly: Andy Karl.

3) Next to Normal (German recording). This recording has a lot of flaws. Technically it’s not good at all. The sound is uneven, sometimes you hear the space around the singers, sometims you hear props making sounds and you get to ‘enjoy’ all this funny accidents that happened to the lyrics in translation. But you also get to enjoy this raw vibe I mentioned in my post about the production and the amazing singers over and over again. And in the end of the day we are happy about every single German production being recorded and – in a way – archived for future use. And whatever my opinion on this particular recording might be, I’m happy that they made the decision to record this production. Bringing Next to Normal to Germany surely was one of the bravest decisions I’ve seen in Musical-Germany for a while.

4) Fun Home. Yes, I am excited for the Broadway arrival of Fun Home next spring and I really hope for the chance to see it! First of all: A musical with not one, but three female leads (all three of them playing the part of Alison), with book, lyrics and music by women – yes, please! Discussing gender and sexual diversity – yes, yes, yes, please! And if these reasons weren’t enough – Sydney Lucas as small Alison has came to blow us away (so have the others, but Ms Lucas definitely nails it the most), her ‘Ring of Keys’ or ‘Al for short’ are so appropriate of the age of her character and the topic. Plus I always love when you get what happens on stage, when songs are so interwoven with the story you actually have a chance to get it without reading a synopsis while listening!

5) Heathers. A show I didn’t make to see when it was playing Off-Broadway this past spring and I was there. The only free slot in my theatrical agenda was the Wednesday matinee and guess what – yes! Heathers didn’t do Wednesday afternoons. The happier I was when I bought the recording and finally got to listen to it at least. So, a show with a almost 9-minutes-long opening is almost always a winner, these 9 minutes bring us directly into the plot. For the rest of it: DEAD GIRL WALKING! Find a version of it online, for god’s sake. The reprise is even more breathtaking.

6) Big Fish. After having had a serious addiction to this recording when it came out early in 2014, I just recently went back to it, because: Andrew Lippa. Norbert Leo Butz. Kate Baldwin. And while Bridges sounds like movement, like an animal or like something living for that matter, Big Fish sounds like bright colours. And no, I don’t say that because I saw the Broadway production and that, yes, was colours. Primarily blue and yellow. The recordings sounds more like a rainbow or a splash of many different colours all at once.

What were your favourites of 2014? I’d be glad to know! 🙂

Happy 2015, folks.

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Top 5 Musical Theatre Experiences 2013

Towards the end of the year I can state: My top 5 Musical Theatre Experiences in 2013….in chronological order.

1) The last ever episode of Smash – I LOVED the first season of Smash and I liked the second one or, let’s say – I ‘lived’ with it until it got its sh*t together towards the end of the season and than the last two episodes happened and … let’s be honest here … that was some pretty girly cheesy stuff going on on there and everyone was a little too happy and/or too at peace with his/her fate, but it was super sweet and lovely. And Joshua Safran did some pretty nice acceptance speech writing there. And TONY AWARDS. 😉

2) 54below – back then I was all over the place for my mom’s and my night out at 54below back in NYC and I still think it was one of the better nights of my life. It was having a super nice night out (which I tend to have sometimes….) with my mom, our first night out in NYC and my first cabaret-style concert in a while. Plus: Stephanie J. Block, Brian Stokes Mitchell, LaChanze, hearing so many tunes for the first time (introduced me to Ragtime and Man Of No Importance) and crying over Liz Callaway singing Journey to the PastI guess that was when I realized I finally was in New York, the city I had been obsessing about for six years or more and now taking in the vibe of Broadway in that lovely (and I’d say except for us tourist-free) venue was a little too much for…

3) Seeing Broadway shows – as I just stated from age 16 on I was thinking about how I’d travel to New York one day and see all these Broadway shows I read about on the internet and in magazines. In January I had this crazy idea about me earning my BA’s degree this year (by the way…I’m not even an official Bachelor of Arts yet….and I handed in my thesis three months ago and it’s not that long) and wanting to treat myself with that trip. My mother came along and saw six Broadway shows, two of which will close in the next week (Big Fish and First Date) and I can say that what I saw over there got a totally new perspective on musical theatre and what people call “mega musicals”. Especially Big Fish and Once moved me in a way it wasn’t even funny anymore and I just heard First Date‘s Krysta Rodriguez say “And now I’m in a Broadway show that’s like a TV show” – and she’s right. Yes, there is such a thing. But basically almost every show was special, too special and too dear to pick one or two to make it into my favourite musical theatre experiences.

4) Next to Normal in Germany – coming back from NYC I had a two week long break before my next adventure, travelling to the south of Germany to see the German version of Next to Normal. And coming back from New York I had this “Well….I’ve seen Broadway….I’ve seen musical theatre at its best” kind of attitude. I knew it featured my favourite two musical actresses in Germany and I was beyond excited for the translation. I’ve always loved the Broadway Cast recording and I knew I’d love the German version of “Wish I were here” music-wise and so it was. In addition to that I never knew “Maybe” could move me the way it did. Sabrina Weckerlin who played Natalie sang like three notes and I totally burst into tears – like she pushed some random “Lisanne cries”-button. Vocally it was overall a genuine performance of mostly everybody involved. Let’s just leave it at that.

5) Bundeswettbewerb Gesang – as you could just read in my two blog post about that competition (Part 1 and Part 2) I really loved working there and it was worth taking 5 days of my annual leave at my job at university even though it meant long hours very little to no private life – I mostly enjoyed working with all these people. It showed me a lot about musical theatre and how people working in there are.

Sadly I didn’t have that great experiences with opera – just because I didn’t see too much of it. But of course, Katie Mitchell’s Le Vin Herbe at Staatsoper Berlin as well as Caroline Melzer and Nurit Stark’s version of Kurtag’s Kafka Fragments were pretty amazing, too – just not Top 5 2013-amazing. 😉

Now I’m eager to learn about your favourite musical theatre experiences of 2013! What concert did you like most? What show? A stage door experience you’d like to share? I’d be happy to read some of that in the comments below or on my facebook page. Or, new since last Wednesday, you can write me an email in English or German to mail.theaterkind[at]web.de

My Top 5 (musical theatre) Recordings 2013

It’s the time of end-of-year-reviews and I’ll incorporate one of mine into Favourite Friday! So….here they come: My top 5 (musical theatre) recordings 2013. As always in no particular order.

1) Live – that’s not a Cast Recording, but an EP of the composer-writer-duo Kerrigan Lowdermilk which I like very much. And on that EP many Broadway voices sing these fabulous songs – it’s a great everyday listen! My most favourite songs on there are “The fathers ran away”, “Holding on”, “Sadie” and “Shut up and listen”. Just go and preview them on iTunes and be amazed.

2) First Date – I saw that show back in September when I was in NYC and I was very happy to be one of the first people to have the recording (because I bought it in the theatre….it wasn’t even in the stores back then). Krysta Rodriguez has a great voice and even if the music had been not my favourite the CD would’ve been worth its money just because of her. But gladly the music is a nice, mostly up tempo, driving pop-score and has so many funny, sad and thoughtful lyrics that it pays off even more! Plus: Since it’s closing on Jan 5th and you weren’t able to SEE Zachary Levi perform (which of course is a pitty!) you can at least listen to him sing. And to Ms. Rodriguez. And everyone else – and get the vibe of the show at least somehow.

3) The Last 5 Years – My favourite musical of all times got an Off-Broadway-Revival this past spring, directed by Jason Robert Brown himself. Since I wasn’t able to see it I was looking forward to the recording to be released – hearing that contemporary take on the material. I own serveral recordings of Betsy Wolfe’s voice and I loved Adam Kantor on the taping of Rent’s final Broadway performance – so my anticipation was even stronger. And I like it (well if not it wouln’t be featured in that list, right?). I like Adam Kantor’s Jamie-tone and with Betsy Wolfe as Cathy you sometimes even are able to hear that Cathy is supposed to be a mediocre singer (unlike Wolfe who is a brilliant singer!) – I always love if characters are given a new tone, a new voice. And with that recording it’s a job well done!

4) Rebecca – Since I am German I thought that at leat one of my featured recordings had to be German. The German recording of Rebecca was released in November 2012, but I’ll still count it as a 2013 favourite. This is the second recording of the Kunze/Levay musical Rebecca (based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier) after the world premiere recording from Vienna 2007. After their run in Vienna some things were revised and changed so it’s nice to have that recording, too, even though I own the one from Vienna. The highlight you can’t argue about is Pia Douwes as Mrs Danvers who seems to be scarier and more like a psychopath with Douwes’ voice. To be honest she was the one reason I bought that recording in the first place – and it’s worth it big times! She’s just incredible.

5) The Mystery of Edwin Drood – After my visit to Münster to see Drood last February and even before I binge-listened to the recording of the 2012 Broadway revival starring my all time favourite Stephanie J Block as Drood. Especially the first CD is much fun to listen to (the second one not soooo much in my opinion since it’s basically the repition of one song with some (musical and lyrical) variations, the different confession songs. But they are nice to have, to get to know the structure – and to be honest the structure is the thing making it special. And Stephanie J Block is the one making this recording special. Please, just go to Youtube right now and search for her “Writing on the Wall” – and if you happen to love it as much as I do: You’re very welcome. 😉

In case you haven’t found a gift for the musical theatre lover in your life I can recommend any of these. What are your favourite recordings of 2013? My German friends: Any German favourites? I’d love to hear that in the comments below or on my facebook page.

I’m very looking forward to 2014 recording-wise, a German Next to Normal recording and the Big Fish OBC in February….Have a great second to last weekend in 2013!