Shaun's Jukebox #1: The New Momma Rose, Funeral Homes & A Parisian Ingenue

I love to catch a show live on stage as you know, but there is also a very special thing behind getting to listen to the music of the show on the cast recording for weeks and months afterwards. Sometimes, it's the only way I can take a listen to the music from that show; I'm never going to be able to see the original Broadway production of Pippin for example because it was produced before my birth, so a cast recording is a fantastic way of capturing the magic of a show even if you can't attend it.

As a result of my musical theatre passion (nay obesession), I literally only ever listen to cast recordings from shows. It is so rare for me to listen to anything otherwise because I love the genre so much. As a result of this and my massive library of cast recordings that my iTunes houses, I thought I'd start a blog series discussing my cast recording picks of the week. They may be new recordings or old recordings that I've been re-listening to that I want to have a chat about but this week, there are three slightly new releases...

Gypsy is one of my favourite musicals of all time and the previous cast recordings have been such frequent plays of mine since my best friend Kyle and I fell deeply in love with the Bette Midler movie back in 2010. As soon as this revival was announced for Chichester, I planned to go but didn't end up catching the show because I sensed the London transfer of the revival that sure enough landed at the Savoy in March. I went against my normal dislike for previews and caught the show a week or so after its first performance and it was everything I hoped it would have been (review of the production is here). Imelda Staunton's performance was career defining and this cast recording captures the incredible company so perfectly. Orchestrally, this production is unlike no other and we've been blessed with such a lush and rich sounding accompaniment to each performance both on the recording and at the theatre itself. My favourite picks for this recording? If Momma Was Married is one of my favourite songs Gypsy and this album has my favourite rendition, as well as Let Me Entertain You (Gypsy Strip) and of course, Staunton's showstopping rendition of Rose's Turn.

Gigi is a weird show; the original Broadway production flopped awfully hard, but they made a film version that won countless Academy Awards and is a classic movie musical as a result. So when this new, lavish revival starring High School Musical alum Vanessa Hudgens, Newsies alum Corey Cott and previous Tony Award-winner Victoria Clark was announced, I had a mixed bag of hopes - was this production going to be any better than the original, or was it going to flop like the original one did? Unfortunately, the latter ended up being the truth and the production will shutter having played almost the same number of performances as the original production, on Sunday. The cast recording, though, captures the true beauty of Gigi: the stunning Lerner and Loewe score. This recording is the best version of the show's music in my opinion (yes, even better than Leslie Caron!) with my personal highlights being Gigi's solos on The Parisians and I Never Want To Go Home Again, as well as the new rendition of Thank Heaven For Little Girls and the ever-so-catchy The Night They Invented Champagne.

Fun Home took home the Tony Award for Best Musical last Sunday and I'm lucky enough to be heading down to the Circle in the Square theatre on Broadway to catch the show next Sunday! I'm not seeing the show because it won though; I'm seeing the show because of how the music has captured my heart. I hadn't heard of Fun Home until shortly after its run at the Public Theatre off-Broadway. My friend Jess had told me she'd been given the cast recording for her birthday last year as a random present and neither of us had ever heard of the show before so I went home, looked up the music and fell deeply in love with the off-Broadway cast recording. This slightly updated Broadway recording (which is literally the same as the original but Emily Skeggs has recorded her parts and they've been edited in in place of Alexandra Socha who left the production off-Broadway and was replaced by Emily Skeggs, who is now in the Broadway company) is the most moving musical theatre score I have heard in a very long time, which is probably why composer Jeanine Tesori (one of my all-time favourite composers anyway) and lyricist Lisa Kron became the first all-female writing team to take home the Tony Award for Best Original Score last weekend, for Fun Home. My personal picks? They're hard to choose, but to get a good feel of the range of the show: Young Alison's Ring of Keys which is performed by the insanely talented Tony nominee Sydney Lucas, the new rendition of Middle Alison's Changing My Major performed by the vocally emotive Tony nominee Emily Skeggs, and Telephone Wire performed by the fantastic Tony nominee Beth Malone.

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