In front of the Tony Awards that are just around the corner (June 10, for those who are wondering), it might be fun to compare and contrast the musical competition. Not everyone can get to New York City to see these productions before the awards are handed out, so we rely on original and new cast albums (not soundtracks; those are for movies) to help give us an understanding of the pieces vying for the Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical accolades. Fortunately, the recording world has made sure that most of the nominees in both categories will be available before the big night. Here is the list of the cast albums you will want to explore to fully enjoy the awards and commemorate the 2017–2018 Broadway season. Scroll down to stream the nominees on Spotify.
Once on This Island (Broadway Records)
Released on February 23, the new cast recording of Once on This Island from Broadway Records captures all of the Caribbean flavors of the Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty score while also preserving the magic and mood of the acclaimed Broadway revival. Tony nominee Hailey Kilgore’s breakout performance is also captured as she sings a breathtaking “Waiting for Life.” Other standouts include Lea Salonga singing “The Human Heart,” and a rousing “Mama Will Provide” sung by Alex Newell. One of the other breathtaking features of this recording is the sumptuous booklet full of wonderful production photographs. Once on This Island is available on CD and for digital download.
Frozen (Walt Disney Records)
The Disney animated film Frozen was a phenomenon from the beginning. When the character of Elsa burst out with the Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez song “Let It Go,” it was only a matter of time before Frozen found its way to the Broadway stage. Disney made sure that happened, and Walt Disney Records preserved the piece, which is available for digital download now and will be available on CD June 8. Many of the songs from the film made it to the stage, with Anderson-Lopez and Lopez augmenting their original score with numbers such as “Dangerous to Dream” and “Monster.”
Mean Girls (Atlantic Records)
Tony-nominated in a plethora of categories including Best Musical, Mean Girls is proving to be a popular show of the 2017–2018 season. Atlantic Records made the music from Mean Girls available on May 18, and audiences can download it digitally or order a CD copy for their Broadway library. The Jeff Richmond/Neil Benjamin score is nominated for a Tony, and the album has preserved every song with aplomb. Among the highlights, “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah,” “Muffin Top,” and “Don’t Go to Bed With a Frown” are witty standouts. Of course, the cast, including Tony nominees Taylor Louderman, Grey Henson, and Ashley Park, universally shines.
The Band’s Visit (Ghostlight Records)
This album has been with us a while, having been released digitally in December 2017 and on CD in February 2018. Time has by no means diminished the power and beauty of David Yazbek’s hypnotic, Tony-nominated score. The Band’s Visit is nominated for Best Musical, and Tony Shalhoub, Katrina Lenk, and Ari’el Stachel, their glorious voices a highlight of the recording, are nominated in performing categories. Songs such as “Omar Sharif” and “Answer Me” prove to be mesmerizing standouts in a unique and surprising score.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical (Masterworks Broadway)
What other Broadway musical boasts such a who’s who of talent as SpongeBob’s Tony-nominated composers and lyricists? Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White Ts, They Might Be Giants, T.I., and songs by David Bowie, Tom Kenny & Andy Paley, with additional lyrics by Jonathan Coulton and additional music by Tom Kitt, make SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical an eclectic score with a variety of styles and voices. Of course, hearing them sung by the bright and winning cast, led by Tony nominees Ethan Slater and Gavin Lee, makes this listen a delightful “Bikini Bottom Day.”
My Fair Lady (Broadway Records)
We eagerly anticipate the My Fair Lady cast recording from Broadway Records; just imagine how this exquisite revival will sound preserved on disc. Set to be released on June 8 (just in time for the Tony Awards), we will be treated to Lerner and Loewe classics such as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “On the Street Where You Live,” “Get Me to the Church on Time,” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” freshly performed by the revival’s Tony-nominated leads Lauren Ambrose, Harry Hadden-Paton, and Norbert Leo Butz. Music director Ted Sperling conducts a 29-piece orchestra performing My Fair Lady’s original musical arrangements by Robert Russell Bennett and Phil Lang, with dance arrangements by Trude Rittmann.
Carousel (Craft Recordings)
We will have to wait until after the Tony Awards to enjoy Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel as sung by Tony nominees Joshua Henry, Jessie Mueller, Renée Fleming, Lindsay Mendez, and Alexander Gemignani. The digital download will not be available until July 8, with the CD following on July 13. Though it will be a torturous wait, we look forward to hearing such glorious musical numbers as “If I Loved You,” “What’s the Use of Wond’rin?,” “Soliloquy,” “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” And how often do we get to hear a new recording of “The Highest Judge of All”?
The 2018 Tony Award Season (Broadway Records)
For those of you who wish to celebrate the 2017–2018 season as a whole, Broadway Records will (again) feature a Tony Award season album. Featuring a fun cover design by Justin “Squigs” Robertson, the album will include music from many of this season’s plays and musicals, as well as musical numbers in tribute to Lifetime Achievement Tony Award recipients Chita Rivera and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Tracks include highlights from Angels in America and Children of a Lesser God, as well as Once on This Island, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical, My Fair Lady, Escape to Margaritaville, The Band’s Visit, Mean Girls, Frozen, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Prince of Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, and Chicago. A portion of the proceeds from the album will go to the American Theatre Wing and Broadway League’s arts educations initiatives. This album will be released June 8.
Escape to Margaritaville (Mailboat Records)
Though it didn’t receive any Tony nominations, honorable mention is given to Escape to Margaritaville, delighting Parrot Heads and non–Parrot Heads alike with the music of Jimmy Buffett. The album features the original Broadway cast, including Paul Alexander Nolan, Alison Luff, and Lisa Howard. The album was released on February 16.
Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals and maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.