After critics write their reviews of musicals, Broadway cast recordings are next line in preserving those musicals for posterity. Every season, we can expect a handful of new cast albums to buy and enjoy, many becoming available just in time for us to listen before the Tony Awards. The 2018–2019 season has been a banner one for cast albums. Here are the best of the best, in the order they were released.
Head Over Heels (Sony Masterworks)
The 2018–2019 season started off with a musical that mixed romance, comedy, old-world charm, and ’80s pop music. Head Over Heels was loosely based on Sir Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia and was set to the music of the band The Go-Go’s and the solo career of frontwoman Belinda Carlisle. With a cast that included Jeremy Kushnier, Rachel York, Bonnie Milligan, Alexandra Socha, Tom Alan Robbins, Taylor Iman Jones, Andrew Durand, and Peppermint, it centers on a kingdom that seeks out and celebrates the “beat” that keeps its world turning. Highlights of the recording include “Mad About You,” “Vacation,” “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” and, of course, “We Got the Beat.”
Gettin’ the Band Back Together (Ghostlight Records)
The musical ran only for a short time, so thankfully Ghostlight Records preserved Gettin’ the Band Back Together. Mark Allen provided a lively score to tell the story of a recently fired businessman who finds strength, hope, and healing in resurrecting his old high-school music group. The Broadway production starred Mitchell Jarvis, Jay Klaitz, Paul Whitty, Manu Narayan, Garth Kravitz, Brandon Williams, Kelli Barrett, and a scene-stealing Marilu Henner.
Pretty Woman: The Musical (Atlantic)
One of Hollywood’s most beloved romantic comedies was reimagined as a Broadway musical this season. Pop singer/songwriter Bryan Adams teamed up with Jim Vallance to fashion a score for Pretty Woman: The Musical, the story of a “hooker with a heart of gold” who finds romance with a millionaire client. The show, currently playing at the Nederlander Theatre, stars Samantha Barks and Andy Karl, who are featured on this album.
Currently No Recording
We include King Kong in this list with the hopes that the musical spectacle playing at the Broadway Theatre will ultimately receive a cast recording. The atmospheric and often haunting score by Marius de Vries and the emotional pull of Eddie Perfect’s songs will hopefully be preserved for this version of the classic tale of the gigantic ape. Rumors have circulated that it will eventually be recorded, but at this time there have been no official announcements. The show is receiving a special Tony honor for its groundbreaking puppet technology.
The Prom (Masterworks Broadway)
There is so much about Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin’s score for The Prom that will get your feet tapping that you are bound to have a way better time at this musical than you did at your own high-school prom. The cast takes both the heartfelt and comedic numbers to a whole new level of perfection, but it is hardly surprising when that assemblage of talent includes Brooks Ashmanskas, Beth Leavel, and Christopher Sieber. The Prom cast album is infused with so much heart and humor in the story of a group of narcissistic actors who head to a small town to support a girl who wants to take her girlfriend to prom, that each listen is life-affirming. Some of the terrific ditties include “Changing Lives,” “It’s Not About Me,” “Tonight Belongs to You,” and “Time to Dance.”
The Cher Show (Warner Bros.)
There are three actresses portraying the legendary singer and actress at different points in her career, but then again, it takes a lot of personality to pull off playing superstar Cher. Fortunately, the three women tasked with pulling off the feat in The Cher Show — Stephanie J. Block, Teal Wicks, and Micaela Diamond — do it with such vigor and electricity that you almost forget you aren’t seeing the diva herself. The cast album vividly captures their performances of such pop hits as “If I Could Turn Back Time,” “I Got You Babe,” “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” “Dark Lady,” and “Believe.”
Be More Chill (Ghostlight Records)
The Broadway cast album of Be More Chill thrillingly captures Joe Iconis’s Tony-nominated score, taking us on a journey through the awkwardness of high school. With songs such as “Michael in the Bathroom” and “More Than Survive,” the album features some of Broadway’s most energetic young talents — including Will Roland, Stephanie Hsu, and George Salazar — connecting with anyone who felt marginalized, left out, or spinning in circles while navigating the high-school experience.
Kiss Me, Kate (Ghostlight Records)
Though we will have to wait until June 28 for the cast album of the Roundabout Theatre’s revival of Kiss Me, Kate to drop, we can revel in the anticipation of a recording that captures Kelli O’Hara and Will Chase singing some of Cole Porter’s wittiest and most enduring songs. With such time-honored hits as “Wunderbar,” “So in Love,” “Too Darn Hot,” “I Hate Men,” “Where Is the Life That Late I Led?” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” this album will be a must-have for anyone who loves classic American musical theater.
Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations (Ume)
There is a reason Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations is bringing down the house every night at the Imperial Theatre. This jukebox musical featuring Tony nominees Derrick Baskin, Jeremy Pop, and Ephraim M. Sykes is exploding with energy as the cast comes together to tell the story of the ’60s and ’70s Motown group. This album features some of the band’s most iconic songs, including “My Girl,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”
Oklahoma! (Verve Label Group)
CD: June 28
You’ve never seen a production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein touchstone Oklahoma! that quite looks like this one, nor have you ever heard the score in quite this interpretation. This revival of Oklahoma! features new orchestrations by Tony nominee Daniel Kluger that give the enduring score a country feel that adds to the show’s immersive atmosphere. The forthcoming cast album will include Tony nominees Damon Daunno, Ali Stroker, and Mary Testa singing such standards as “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “I Cain’t Say No,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” and the title song.
Arguably the most eagerly anticipated cast album of the batch is the Broadway incarnation of Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown. Infused with a jazz-blues flavor and sung with untethered zest by Reeve Carney, Eva Noblezada, Amber Gray, Andre De Shields, and Patrick Page, this insistent and electrified score has left audiences dazzled. A modern take on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Hadestown will receive a digital release June 7.
Tootsie (Verve Label Group)
Digital: June 14
CD: August 16
Though we have to wait until August 16 to get our cast recording of the new musical comedy Tootsie, the promise of another melodic and witty David Yazbek score means it will be well worth the wait. The recording will feature star Santino Fontana playing his dual role of Michael and Dorothy — the down-on-his-luck actor who pretends to be a woman to get work — ably supported by Lilli Cooper, Sarah Stiles, Andy Grotelueschen, John Behlmann, Julie Halston, Reg Rogers, and Michael McGrath. In a universally delightful score, standouts include “What’s Gonna Happen,” “Jeff Sums It Up,” and “Talk to Me Dorothy.” It seems a shame that Robert Horn’s hilarious and timely Tony-nominated book can’t also be preserved.
Beetlejuice (Ghostlight Records and Warner Bros. Records)
Digital: June 7
The final Broadway musical to open this season was Beetlejuice, and audiences can’t seem to get enough of Alex Brightman as the ghoulish title character leading a parade of mischief and mayhem at the Winter Garden Theatre. The musical features a Tony-nominated score by Eddie Perfect (King Kong) and a Tony-nominated book by Scott Brown and Anthony King. The cast album, which has yet to be given a release date, will feature the original cast including Brightman, Sophia Anne Caruso, Rob McClure, Kerry Butler, Leslie Kritzer, and Adam Dannheiser. Highlights of the score include “The Whole Being Dead Thing,” “Dead Mom,” and “Say My Name.”
2019 Tony Award Season (Tony Award Productions and Broadway Records)
For those of you who have a hard time making choices, Tony Award Productions and Broadway Records are joining forces one again to bring you their annual Tony Award Season album. A tradition tethered to the Tony Awards, this annual release is a delightful sampler of songs from across the entire season. This has proven to be an eclectic year, and the 2019 Tony Award Season should have some exciting surprises.
Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.