When it was “slipped” to me, I was told that the demo recording was filled with songs that weren’t that great, that weren’t very “catchy” (his actual words). I won’t go into great detail because I know how stupid and artistically unethical it is to review or go into length concerning a work that is in progress; it’s something delicate, and God knows that anything could change between now and Broadway. However, I do think a little preview to whet your appetite is warranted. And I will go far enough to say that I’d have to overall disagree with my kind informant, quite a lot, actually.
The opening number of this show will probably be the most exciting opening number of recent times, rivaling another exciting opening number from this songwriting duo. With a full orchestra and a great voice, the audience will be jamming with the rock and country-infused tune (perhaps it’s rockabilly—my knowledge of musical terms from this particular era is underdeveloped, I’m afraid). Of course, the staging will be very important as well (it could become redundant), but I have to say that I keep listening to the song, and based on that number alone, I’d want to buy a ticket.
What may have caused someone to say the music isn’t very catchy could be that, while there are some strong rock-infused songs, there are also many numbers in, I’m not even sure I know how to accurately describe it, in the crooner style, perhaps that of a Frank Sinatra or a Dean Martin. But I would say that these songs are not only very theatrical in nature but also very exciting in their own right.
Perhaps where the negative comment may have come from is that it’s hard to tell how the final songs will play, perhaps because they are performed by the composer and not Broadway singers (though he does very well elsewhere). Sometimes it’s hard to tell if they are meant to be sincere or if they fulfill some other function within the plot. Since Urinetown, it’s hard to know if river metaphors are serious or not. A few of those final songs almost feel the same, though one really can’t judge a theatre song based solely on the recording. The book could very well support the styles and that’s what matters most.
Two more words must be said, one about a track performed by, it has to be, Patti LuPone (can anyone confirm or deny the presence of a Patti LuPone?) in a beautiful song that won’t sound nearly as stunning without her singing it (though maybe I’ll make out more of the words), and another favorite being sung by a prostitute character. I don’t know who’s singing it on the demo, but it has been a part rumored at various times to be going to well-known singers. I don’t know who the woman on the recording is, but she knocks it out of the park. I want to see her on stage.
I look forward to when this show opens, not only to hear this music live, but to see how the story has been made to work on stage. This particular source material has a lot of strength, but if the last 1/3 of the source material isn’t made to work on stage (and plain-old fixed; the source material never had a strong ending), the strength of the songs I’ve heard so far won’t do much good. That said, I can tell you that this story is in good hands.
I recently quoted a writer from Variety saying that those in the music industry need to stand up and take notice of the talent on Broadway. Perhaps Jessica Simpson would have a hit with a song like one of these on the radio. In the old days, artists could have one or two good songs on an album then pad them with crap. Here’s an album with a plethora of strong melodies. Hello, music industry . . . ?
Anyway, I’m excited.
the Broadway Mouth
April 1, 2008