Shaun's Jukebox #6: Spongeday in the Park with Amber

I'm actually super excited to talk about the cast albums shown above in this edition of Shaun's Jukebox because we have such a brilliant selection: two new recordings from shows that I adore and an album for a new show that really shouldn't work but it totally does! All three of them feature completely different tones and sounds to one another, but all three of them are amazing.

I am a complete Sondheim freak, so when I heard about this brilliant revival and saw its stunning artwork for the first time, I knew I'd be obsessed with this production. My only apprehension was this new cast: could Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford live up to those very high standards upheld by Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters? Even Jenna Russell took some convincing for me (but her vocal performance was so distinctively different to Peters's that it didn't matter much). I l-o-v-e Annaleigh Ashford, so I had no qualms about her per se, but I had never heard Jake sing before, so I was worried... but I don't know why I was! Jake Gyllenhaal has the voice of an angel and his rendition of "Finishing The Hat" almost reduced me to tears it's so stunning. Not only are the vocal performances great on this record though, but the orchestrations are as well. I haven't heard Sondheim sound this lavish since the 2011 Follies album. My favourites from this recording? The classics just can't be beaten: "Sunday in the Park with George", "Colour and Light", "Finishing The Hat" and let's add a cheeky "Sunday (Finale)" into the mix as well.

How strange to think that this is the original London cast recording of Dreamgirls but nonetheless, it is. This isn't my favourite Dreamgirls recording by any means - not even JHuds and Beyonce could beat the OBCR or the 2005 Concert version for me - but it's fantastic nonetheless. The new orchestrations sound lush and I'm so happy that they decided to record almost the entire show's audio and put it onto the album. There is so much good music in this show that they didn't record for the OBCR! The London cast all have soaring voices as well and while Amber Riley is billed the star, I think that Liisi LaFontaine, Adam J Bernard and Tyrone Huntley really shine through here. My favourite tracks from this recording in particular are "Heavy", "Love, Love You Baby" and "Ain't No Party".

I know that everyone has been willing The Spongebob Musical (as it was called out of town) to die a slow and painful death since it was first announced, but I've actually been really on board with the idea since its announcement and their recent cast album is not turning me away from the project anytime soon. Featuring a very unique cast album made up of a huge list of songs composed by some of the greatest musicians of today - from Panic! At The Disco to John Legend to Sara Bareilles to Cyndi Lauper - the score really does have a song for everyone and is absolutely fantastic to listen to as a result. I still have no idea how the book for the show fares, but if I were to base my opinion on the score alone, I'd say that this show is going to be awesome fun. My personal favourites from the album are "Bikini Bottom Day"* which opens the show, "(Just A) Simple Sponge" which is Spongebob's big solo written by Brendan Urie and is probably the best song in the show, and the song that I'm obsessed with: the post-bows number which is a re-orchestrated version of the theme tune.

What are your new favourite cast recordings at the moment? Be sure to tweet me and let me know at @shaunycat over on Twitter and then check out the rest of the Shaun's Jukebox posts, too.

*The cast recording for Sunday in the Park with George and the song "Bikini Bottom Day" are available on YouTube so song links are not provided.

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