Book, Music & Lyrics: Jonathan Larson
A thoroughly enjoyable show, this was the first show that I remember seeing that had the band on stage instead of the orchestra pit. A "re-imagined modernization" of Puccini's opera, La Bohème, set in early '90s in the East Village in NYC with HIV/AIDS taking the place of tuberculosis as the central illness. The show was a media darling immediately, not only because it was a good show, but the tragic story of Jonathan Larson made for good copy.
|May 13, 1996|
In addition to earning a Pulitzer Prize, the musical deservedly swept the 50th Tony Awards where it's main competition was Bring in 'da Noise/Bring in 'da Funk. Due to progress in HIV treatment options, gentrification of the East Village, and advances in technology, the milieu of the show became quickly dated, but it makes for a nice time capsule of what life was like back then. The cast album isn't nearly as good as a live show, but that's pretty much standard for cast albums. I'll get this 2 disc set out every few years, but it's not anything I listen to with any regularity, mainly because I find it ultimately depressing because it makes me think of friends lost.
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #19
Tracks: While some of the music sounds like typical middlin' show tune stuff (not much melody, designed to move the story forward) and some of the music is terribly derivative (e.g., One Song Glory sounds like a forgotten b-side from The Police; Another Day reminds me of Jesus Christ Superstar, not that that's a bad thing), there are some pretty good pop tunes scattered throughout. The best of these is the show's signature tune, Seasons Of Love. Also good are Sante Fe and I'll Cover You. I also enjoy Today 4 U which perfectly captures what dance music sounded like in '96. There's also a bonus track of Stevie Wonder singing Seasons Of Love which is an unexpected surprise - the rare bonus track that's actually a bonus.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: My buddy Scott, an extreme Broadway fan, had played me his copy of the cast recording within days of its release. I can't remember when I purchased my CD, but I remember going to see a touring production of the show when it passed through Houston.