“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” musical album review

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For months musical theater fans were anxiously awaiting for the release of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” album from the Off-Broadway production. Over the summer of 2015, it was announced that unfortunately the popular musical would not head to Broadway, but a cast recording would be released. Finally, the CD came out on January 22, 2016.

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Michael Arden as Quasimodo

The album consists of cast members from the original Off-Broadway production including Michael Arden as Quasimodo, Ciara Renée (Hawkgirl “The Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow”) as Esmeralda, Erik Liberman as Clopin, Patrick Page as Don Claude Frollo and Andrew Samonsky as Phoebus. It also features a few ensemble members from the Papermill Playhouse cast, including Jeremy Stolle (understudy in “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway).

Michael Arden is a fantastic singer and put a lot of passion into his character. He put so much emotion into the song “Heaven’s Light” and really showed his vocals in “Out There.” He also had a great speaking tone for Quasimodo. Rather than talking in his normal voice, he made it sound slightly raspy.

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Ciara Renée as Esmeralda

Ciara Renée has a phenomenal singing voice. She put a lot of emotion into “God Help the Outcasts” and it sounded like she had a lot of fun with “Rhythm of the Tambourine.” She is easily one of my favorite singers on the album.

Patrick Page has a great voice, he put a lot of emotion into the character and made him a bit scary. He sounds almost exactly like Tony Jay (Frollo in Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”), especially in “Hellfire” as well as his speaking voice for the character.

 

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Andrew Samonsky (Phoebus) and Ciara Renée (Esmeralda)

Erik Liberman is one of my top favorite singers on the soundtrack. I love Clopin and find his vocals impressive when I watch the movie. Liberman hit the high notes perfectly and he sounded like he had fun singing for the album.

The first song on the soundtrack had me hooked there and then. The choir is amazing and sounds incredibly beautiful. There is a lot of emotion shown though the vocals, especially with the main cast.

Since I did not see the show when it was on stage, I greatly enjoyed the soundtrack. It gives a good idea of what the show was about regarding the book compared to the Disney movie version. While it had some songs from the Disney classic, there were several songs written for the musical itself.

The story seemed to be a mix of the book written by Victor Hugo and the Disney movie version of the same name. It is like the book because of a couple of details in the beginning, but mainly the ending. It is more in regard to the film in terms of Esmeralda and Phoebus’ love story, but only slightly, and the talking gargoyles, which I did not realize were in the musical until the song “Flight Into Egypt.”

Overall, it is a fantastic album and is worth listening to, even if you did not like the Disney version.  The choir will give you chills and the cast will steal your heart. Once you hear the first song, there is no going back because the voices will leave you entranced. I can only imagine what it would have been like to see the stage version.

“The Last Five Years” movie review

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Jamie and Cathy are a young married couple. Jamie is a best selling novelist and Cathy is a struggling theater actress. The movie has an intercutting timeline and began from Cathy’s point of view at the end of the couple’s relationship and ended at the start of it. From Jamie’s standpoint, it went from the beginning of it to the end.

Before the film came to theaters I really wanted to see it, but I could not because I was still in college at the time and I was busy. I was finally able to watch it on Netflix recently, and I was pretty disappointed. 

Based on the Off-Broadway production of the same name, “The Last Five Years”stars Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. The film was released in theaters in the United States on February 13, 2015.

Former Broadway actress, Anna Kendrick was very believable as Cathy. She did a great job acting and had a good voice. Since the director had most of the songs sung live, the audience got the chance to see what she is capable of without being studio recorded.

Broadway actor, Jeremy Jordan did a fantastic job as Jamie, they could not have casted anyone better. He put a lot of emotion into the character and had a great voice.

The characters are a good reminder of what it is like to be young and in love, but the problem was, they were too focused on their careers. Jamie was more successful than Cathy and she did not like being on the sidelines, nor did she like where her job as an actress was going.

Jamie tried to support Cathy, but he also had his own career to think about. By the end of the film he had given up on his marriage and made some very big mistakes.

When you make vows to another person they need to mean something to both people. When you are in a marriage, both parties need to make it work. This is why I did not particularly enjoy the story or feel sad by the end of the film. Both Jamie and Cathy did not seem to fight hard enough for their relationship when their careers were getting in the way.

I know musicals are mostly fiction, but the storyline bothered me, especially since divorce is such a heavy topic for me. The story did not move me like most musicals do, nor did I find any moments humorous. There were some sweet moments, but when I know what is going to happen, it spoils everything. That is just how I am.

The film was not my favorite and I found the timelines to be confusing at certain points. However, the music was good and I thought Jordan and Kendrick’s voices went well together.

“Jersey Boys” 2016 tour review

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There is always a story to how legends got started. “Jersey Boys” is a story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I saw the musical on tour in Oklahoma City, Okla., on January 16, 2016. I had never seen the show before and I thought it was amazing.

The show is about four boys named Tommy DeVito (Matthew Dailey), Frankie Valli (Aaron de Jesus), Nick Massi (Keith Hines) and Bob Gaudio (Drew Seeley) who later go on to be known as The Four Seasons. It tells of how they began, met Bob, became a hit and the struggles they all went through on and off the stage.

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Matthew Dailey was great as Tommy, he had a great voice and did a good job showing the character’s development. He did a great job showing the struggle the character went through to try and keep the band together, while also keeping secrets of his own.

Arron de Jesus was amazing as Frankie and did the best job showing the character’s development. He hit the high notes perfectly, but at times he sounded a bit drowned out by the other three. He had phenomenal dancing skills and the audience loved him.

Keith Hines was great as Nick Massi, the deep voiced comic relief of the show. He did not have a lot of dialogue compared to the rest of the cast, but whenever he spoke it was either hilarious or serious. He did not have much of a chance to show his singing voice like the other three characters did, but that is most likely because the character was a backup singer and bass player.

Drew Seeley was great as Bob Gaudio. He did a good job showing the struggle the character went through as a songwriter who, unlike the other three boys, did not grow up in the same area as the others. Seeley is widely known for his singing and dancing, specifically on Disney Channel, so it was interesting and exciting to see him in a professional show.

All of the characters were narrators for their own stories at different parts of the musical, which is something I enjoyed a great deal. It gave the audience a chance to hear their side of the story.

I was very impressed with the set and the actors’ ability to play instruments. I loved that they used cameras to record the actors during the performance and put it on a screen in the background.

The music is amazing, including classics such as “Sherry,” “Oh, What A Night,” “My Eyes Adored You” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” The show is a must see for anyone, it has great music and tells a great story about the band, the struggles they went through and were they are now.

My Top 5 John Barrowman Albums

You may recognize John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness (“Doctor Who” and “Torchwood”) and/or as Malcolm Merlyn (“Arrow”). But did you know before he started gracing our television screens, he was a musical theater actor and has recorded several albums as well?

This is a list of my top five albums he has recorded over the years. Since I am an aspiring critic, this will also be a review of them.

1) Aspects of Lloyd Webber

I admit, I am biased when it comes to this CD because I am a huge R-1862361-1372311097-5260.jpegAndrew Lloyd Webber fan. This was John Barrowman’s second album he recorded. It was originally released in 1997 and was re-issued in 2007.

Favorite songs

One of my favorite songs is the first song on the soundtrack, “Sunset Boulevard.” Barrowman sings this with a passion and in a way, he makes it his own. His version is one of two that I like.

Did you know that in 1992 John Barrowman played Raoul in “The Phantom of the Opera?” I believe that was one of the reasons he recorded “All I Ask of You” with Shona Lindsay. The duet between these two is beautiful and Lindsay has a great voice. If only we could hear this song with him and musical theater actress, Sierra Boggess.

Least Favorite Song-

Everyone has at least one track they do not like on an album, for me it is “Love Changes Everything.” What “Phantom of the Opera” is to sopranos, I imagine this is for tenors and it all comes down to the last note.

Barrowman seemed to have it, then he hit the last note and his voice could not hit it. Not every tenor is Michael Ball, who was the first to sing the song and let’s admit it, he is hard to follow.

2) Music, Music, Music512ysB9+xiL

Recorded later in his career was “Music, Music, Music.” This album includes covers from other artists, including a song he was the first to record and was released in 2008.

Favorite Songs-

One of my favorites from this album is “What About Us.” This is a song John Barrowman was the first to record, it was written by Gary Barlow and Chris Braide.

Any Dream Will Do” contestant and musical theater actor, Daniel Boys, duets with Barrowman in “I Know Him So Well.” These two voices go together beautifully and while the song is usually sung by women, these two men knock it out of the park. I also love Barrowman’s solo version of it.

3) Another Side

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There are so many songs I love on this album, it is hard to choose my top favorites. This CD has so many tracks that fit John Barrowman’s voice perfectly.

Favorite Songs

One of my favorite covers on this CD is “Time After Time.” It is hard to top Cyndi Lauper, but Barrowman managed to do so. His voice is absolutely beautiful in this song.

I am not 100 percent certain, but I believe he recorded “Heaven” because it reminded him of his husband, Scott. Either way, he put a lot of emotion into the song and it is one of his best covers.

4)  Reflections From Broadway

This album was released when he was on his rise to fame in 2007. It is barrowman-john-reflections-from-broadwayevident he has a love for musical theater on this soundtrack.

Favorite Songs-

One of my favorites on this album is “If I Can’t Love Her,” from “Beauty and the Beast.” While listening to this I cannot help but notice his voice is lower, but not so low he sounds out of his element.

“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is one of the best on the CD. He could put a baby to sleep with his voice, it is so beautiful and calming.

Least Favorite Song

I know he played the role of Chris a few times in “Miss Saigon” in the 1990’s, but his version of “Why God Why” is not the best. His voice goes all over the place and it sounds like he is shouting. I also have a problem with the way he pronounced a few of the words such as, “God” and his A’s. However, if he sung it now he might do a better job.

5) You Raise Me Up

This is John Barrowman’s most recent album to date. With help from hislarge fans using PledgeMusic, he was able to make his own CD with songs of different genres he wanted to sing.

Favorite Songs

Let’s face it, no one is ever going to be Josh Groban, but John Barrowman does “You Raise Me Up” justice. He starts to sing it a bit low, then slowly progresses into his natural tenor tone. He sings it with so much passion and it is evident he loved recording it.

John Barrowman admitted he liked the song “A Thousand Years” when he announced he would be recording it. His version is very beautiful and is better than Christina Perri’s.

“Skyscraper” is easily one of my absolute favorites on this album. Barrowman sings it with so much passion and I LOVE it. This song holds a special place in my heart, especially since my best friend and I both enjoy it and the message it gives.

Staying true to his Scottish heritage, Barowman decided to add “Loch Lomond” to the album. He sings it with so much more passion than any other song on the CD. He makes it known through his voice how much he loves his home country.

Honorable Mentions

I Owe It All to You- Tonight’s the Night: The Very Best of 

Memory- John Barrowman

You’ll Never Walk Alone- John Barrowman

Oh, What A Night- John Barrowman

Angel – Music, Music, Music

Right Here Waiting For You – Music, Music, Music

Felling Good – Another Side

All By Myself – Another Side

Being Alive – Another Side, Reflections From Broadway

Easy to Love – Reflections From Broadway

Try to Remember – Reflections From Broadway

Hollywood – You Raise Me Up

This Is the Moment – You Raise Me Up

Sunset Boulevard- Dream Cast

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There has been talk that a film based off the musical version of “Sunset Boulevard” is in the works. However, creator of the show, Andrew Lloyd Webber has been trying to make it happen for years, but has had complications with the movie company Paramount, since they own the rights to the original 1950’s version of the movie.

I have not seen the musical and my parents gave it negative reviews when they saw it years ago. I have heard the title song and have become very picky about the way it is sung. I have come to enjoy only two versions of the song, the voices belonging to John Barrowman and Michael Ball.

Norma

Norma is the main role of this musical. She is a former silent film star who did not continue working when sound movies were invented. During the course of the show she is trying to send her movie script to Paramount Studios.

Patti LuPone

LuPone originated the role on West End (London) and has been a fan

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Patti LuPone as Nora

favorite since then. She still does concerts and is a Tony winning actress. I cannot think of anyone better to portray Norma on screen.

Glenn Close

Close was the original actress to play Norma in Los Angeles  and on Broadway (New York). She is set to revise the role in the 2016 West End revival. It is well known in the theatre community she is the top choice if the musical is made into a movie. 

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Glenn Close as Nora

This is a role Close is well-known for in the theatre community and there are some fans who would love to see her play Norma on screen. She has experience in “Sunset Boulevard,” is a big name and she can sing. She would be great.

Joe

Joe is one of few main characters in the musical. He is a script writer who works for Paramount Studios and happens to stumble among Nora one night. She has him go over her script, which he cannot save, it is so awful, but he attempts to and ends up staying with the older woman while living a life of luxury.

Joe is the one who sings the title song and as I have stated previously, I only enjoy John Barrowman and Michael Ball‘s versions of it. Both men portrayed the role in London and Barrowman has recorded the song on several of his albums.

Personally, I like singers who go outside the box when they sing “Sunset Boulevard,” which is why I prefer Barrowman and Ball compared to Hugh Jackman and even Ramin Karimloo.

Aaron Tveit

Tveit is a popular actor in the television and musical theatre industry. While he has never played the role, he could probably nail the title song. He has a great voice and is a fantastic actor.

Betty

Betty is Joe’s love interest in the musical, who is engaged to a man named Artie. She works at Paramount Studios and is a writer as well.

Kaley Ann Voorhees

There are quite a few actress I feel could play this part, but in the end my top choice would be Voorhess. She was an alternate for the role of Christine in “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway and recently co-stared with many others in “The Prince of Broadway” in Japan. She has a phenomenal voice and would be perfect for the role.