top 5

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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My top 5 things that moved me in 2014

…as an audience member.

I like lists and I cannot lie. I’m sorry, but the last weeks of a year just make me want to write lists. So here they come, the top 5 moments I experienced as a theatre-goer in 2014. In no particular order. And most of them involved crying and – funnily enough – other people.

1) My Mama just before seeing Anything Goes in St. Gallen: “Uh…I don’t like comedies like that!” Me: “Well, just sit and listen and watch and if you decide to like it eventually it’ll be worth much more, right?” Mama as intermission is about to start, smiling: “What you said just happenend!”

2) During a short trip to Dresden with my classmates from Leipzig, most of them wanted to go and see a production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. As you might or might not know I usually don’t chose Shakespeare if I have a choice. And I had and to I took my classmate H to see the smaller scale production Weiße Flecken of the Bürgerbühne in Dresden (a phenomenon I mentioned in one of my newmusicaltheatre.com blogposts) by a director I know very well. Sensing her excitement and seeing how touched she was by what happenend on stage and talking to her afterwards about what we just had seen, which obviously a first for her, was great and made me not regret my decision to not have joined the others.

3) the very small production of Exit Paradise at Neuköllner Oper Berlin which I saw this fall. It was not so much about being moved or touched in a Bridges of Madison County kind of way, but it definitely was one of the most dense theatrical experiences I ever had. It was a small venue, the cast was highly energetic and acted/sung their bottoms off…

4) the closing performance of Barcode, a new chamber opera my mentioned classmate H and I were the dramaturgs for. After we had seen this production a lot, both of us probably didn’t expect this performance to be much different, but it blew us away. I guess we still are pretty proud of our singer-actors and what they accomplished.

5)
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This. Note the conductor. And I mean: This show as a whole. Whom am I kidding, right? (Who doesn’t know what I’m hinting at here, check out this post!)

5 favourite musical theatre things in 2014

1) Bridges of Madison County – I know, I mentioned that A TON on here! You don’t remember? Are you kiddin’ me? Check out this and that and that….More than 7 months after my visit at the Schoenfeld theatre it still wows me. Just last week I had a major re-listen of the score and it is as beautiful as always. I mean: Of course it is, I listen to it on CD. CDs usually don’t change….Boy, honestly I’m doubting I’ve felt something more beautiful in 2014 that this solo cello in the opening, Steven Pasquale’s “It all fades away” (which is great to hysterically cry along, by the way) or the things “Look at me” tells us about Francesca? This music and the memories of the performances I was #blessed enough to see are treasures of my (professional) theatre memory and it re-assures me that theatre and music might be the biggest love of my life.

2) my travels – I like to go on trains and I really like to go places. This year my (musical) theatre obsession has brought me to serveral countries and cities including St. Gallen and Zurich (Switzerland), a couple of German cities and of course the all mighty New York City. I like exploring new grounds and still know there’s something in each of my destinations I genuinely love: Theatre. I’ve began to believe that theatre connects people from all kind of countries and it’s hard for me to believe otherwise.

3) the internet – some of you might remember this – earlier this year I was a guest blogger for newmusicaltheatre.com’s blog. In my 8 part series I wrote about (contemprary) musical theatre in Germany. Literally I was so proud to be featured on there, since English isn’t my first language and I love the American musical so much I was over the moon to (potentially) bring my thoughts on German theatre to American and international readers. I deeply adore this website anyway, the articles feautred reflect our business in a way I’d love to read it from German folks as well….Another find this year definitely is the-interval.com, a online magazine reminding us that there aren’t enough women on Broadway or in theatre for that matter and that theatre still is mostly for men, workingwise. (I’ve written about this, too, a while back….read it here). Other than that they do amazing interviews with amazing women in theatre. 😉

4) books – this year I read serveral books and atricles dealing with theatre. Two of them are sticking out. Really. One of them of course being “The Untold Stories of Broadway” by the phenomenal Jennifer Ahsley Tepper (check out her twitter for more awesomeness!) which I already wrote about. I loved it and can’t wait until all my other reading is finally done to take my turn with the second installement. The other one is a very crucial one for me as a professional, as a researcher – I spent a week of my summer with Stacy Wolf’s “Changed for Good. A feminist history of the Broadway musical”. Although it in deed is feminist, sometimes more than a only a little polemic the books gives an overview what women on stages can tell or can’t and how men (most of the shows she writes about are written my men with the exception of Caroline, or change and even that only partly) have presented women in their stories throughtout the years.

5) friends – I’ve said that before: I love the community sense of theatre. And this year I’ve made new friends in theatres, around theatres and in the world just meeting people from the community: My classmates from Leipzig, especially my lovely H with whom I spent so much time around the ‘little’ production of Barcode, and so many enthusiastic people I again met this year while working with Bundeswettbewerb Gesang, and – of course, how could I forget you?! – my lovely friend D who a) sung a translation of mine to people, twice and b) is simply amazing! ❤
Plus: I’m very, very happy that old friends of mine are still there or back again in my life.