I love theatre. I don’t get to see a lot of live theatre. I don’t live in NYC. Sometimes I wish I lived in New York just so I could go see all the Broadway productions that are running (
but then I remember the USA is kind of a scary place and I’m really grateful I live in Canada). I think the best solution would be if Canada adopts New York as it’s 11th province. Now I live in Canada near Toronto so occasionally Broadway National Tours come to the Mirvish theatres, like Newsies and Matilda did recently, which is amazing and I always go to those productions but seeing 2-3 Mirvish shows a year just doesn’t satisfy my craving for musical theatre.
So I turn to Original Broadway Cast Albums as my alternative. I don’t know that they necessarily help my craving, if anything listening to cast albums usually only makes me want to go to NYC more, but they are kind of an alternative. I’ve always loved theatre but ever since I saw Newsies back in 2015 (the show that probably changed my life for good), I’ve wanted to go and experience true New York Broadway theatre. That hasn’t happened yet but one day it will. So in the meantime, I live vicariously though cast albums. Here’s a short run down of my OBCR albums that I have in my iTunes.
- Catch Me If You Can (some songs)
- Chicago (some songs)
- Come From Away
- Dear Evan Hansen
- Footloose (some songs)
- Hairspray (some songs)
- Kinky Boots
- Les Miserables
- Mamma Mia!
- Next to Normal (some songs)
- Once (some songs)
- Tuck Everlasting
I said short didn’t I? I lied. And I listen to even more on Spotify and Apple Music. I have an addiction to musical theatre, which is why I love soundtracks. Most of the shows on this list I have not seen but I could probably recite the whole plot of the show forwards and backwards. Musicals like Hamilton (which I have not seen) and Come From Away (which I have seen) and Rent (which I have not seen) are great in album form because they are pretty much sung through, giving you all the feels and most of the plot details.
Another reason cast albums are great is because you can experience shows that you never get to see or closed too quickly. When Tuck Everlasting opened last spring I was so excited because that was one of my favourite books as a kid. Unfortunately, the show closed after about a month (
which I may or may not be still bitter about…) and I never got to see the beautiful show (from what I saw on social media). Thankfully, the show was preserved in the cast album form and it’s a beautiful one. Another album that I listened to but never saw was Next to Normal. Granted, I only discovered this show because of my obsession with Aaron Tveit…oops. But there was so much critical acclaim for that show and I knew it was about mental health, which I struggle with, I decided I had to listen to it. I cried my way through it.
Cast albums also let you relive the shows you have seen over and over and over again. I had the great privilege of seeing Come From Away in Toronto back in December and the cast album was released last week and I’ve been listening to it (and crying) on repeat. I need to not listen to this album in public. This show was one of my top 3 musical experiences. This show just means so much to me and I’m glad I got to see it and it’s been preserved on an album. I don’t know when or if I’ll get to see it again (but I do know it’s coming back to Toronto in February 2018) but I know I will always be able to put on that album and listen to the show.
Music is the essence of any Broadway show, I guess that’s why their called MUSICals. Everything from the lyrics to the orchestrations helps tell the story, maybe it doesn’t tell the whole story, but it certainly tells a large part of it. Like the perfectly placed violin in the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack. Alex Lacamoire did such a good job with those orchestrations that those moments can just bring me to tears. The Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack just makes me feel everything and the characters seem so relatable and I haven’t even seen this production (yet).
The best thing about cast albums is they make Broadway a little bit more accessible to those of us who don’t live in NYC, can’t get to NYC, can’t afford tickets, can’t see these shows in their hometowns, etc. The music is there, the story (for the most part) is there (which are arguably the biggest parts of the show), all that’s missing is the acting.
Now if we could get all Broadway shows professionally recorded like they did with Newsies that’d be great! Then you’d have all the pieces of the puzzle. Cast albums add so much to a theatre experience, whether you’ve seen the show or not and that’s why they will continue to be an important part of the process of opening a show on Broadway.
Do you have a favourite cast album? Let me know in the comments below!