Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hey Finian, shut up and sing!

When I make a playlist, I mix in songs from Broadway musicals right in there with my circa-1995 soft rock. To me, they’re no different, and just as motivating while cleaning the apartment or working out. So when I’m in the groove, there’s nothing more irritating than when dialogue interrupts the music. 

The cast recording of Finian’s Rainbow is going to annoy me to no end. The album for the excellent, gone-way-too-soon show was released yesterday, and today I downloaded three songs from it (I loved the show as a whole, but didn’t want the entire album). “How Are Things In Glocca Morra,” “Look To The Rainbow,” and Old Devil Moon” all have introductory dialogue leading into the music. I’m sure the majority of the tracks have incorporated dialogue—perhaps someone can let me know if I’m right or wrong in the comments section below. 

Why did the producers at PS Classics (the label that released the album) do this?? Dialogue in cast recordings toss a distracting wrench in the continuity of the album’s flow. And in Finian’s case, there’s more than just continuity problems.

The acting sounds terrible. I thought Kate Baldwin and Cheyenne Jackson were terrific when I saw the show, but this dialogue out of context is embarrassing. 

From “How Are Things In Glocca Morra”: 

Finian: “Do you hear that skylark, Sharon?
Sharon: “Aye.”
Finian: “It’s the same skylark music we have back in Ireland.
Sharon: “Aye. A Glocca Morra skylark.”
(song begins) 

Did we really need that information? I’m pretty sure that Sharon, who has just traveled from Ireland with her father, knows what their silly skylark music from back home sounds like. And Baldwin specifies that it sounds like a “Glocca Morra” skylark, as if reminding her senile father the name of their hometown. 

But ok, that example aside, maybe the dialogue intro to “Look To The Rainbow” provides us with some much-needed backstory for the song. 

From “Look To The Rainbow”: 

Sharon: “In Glocca Morra, where we come from, there is an old legend. You’ll never grow old and you’ll never grow poor if you look to the rainbow beyond the next moor.”
Woody: “That’s a lovely legend. I wonder who thought it up.”
Sharon: “My father.” 

See, that might be helpful, if the first lyrics of the song weren’t “On the day I was born, said my father said he… Look, look, look to the rainbow.” 

This obnoxious flaw in the Finian’s cast recording reminds me of the same issue with another album. Although it doesn’t do it nearly as bad, the cast recording for Spring Awakening has unnecessary dialogue. Inexplicably, during only one track on the album,  the producers felt it necessary to insert dialogue. On “Don’t Do Sadness / Blue Wind,” Moritz and Ilse chop up their amazing rock number with their awkward conversation. During the show, the dialogue was an excellent highlight. But everyone I’ve talked with about that track wishes it was purely the music, because on the album, it’s such a great rock song. 

The best cast recording I own, in terms of producing, is Passing Strange. Recorded live at the Belasco Theatre, Stew and the cast captured an incredible audio imprint of what it was like to sit there and watch that amazing show. I don’t know why all cast albums aren’t recorded the same way. 

Don’t get me wrong, Baldwin and Jackson sound unbelievable on Finian’s tracks. But I’m tempted to do a chop job with my free audio editing software.

Editor's note: Happy first birthday, Stage Rush!! And an enormous thank you to everyone who reads. Stage Rush would be nothing without you.

1 comment:

  1. Well I certainly don't plan on purchasing this any longer...I was going to.

    That's the genius behind the Passing Strange cast recording, as well as the live from Soho version of Spring Awakening...remove the awkward, stilted dialogue, and all you have is amazing music! Duh, producers!



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