Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Book Charlotte Anker & Irene Rosenberg|
Onward Victoria (1981 Original Cast Members)
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks, Broadway & Vocalists
JILL EICHENBERRY ASTOUNDS IN THIS VERY MUSICAL BROADWAY DISA
J. T Waldmann | Carmel, IN, home to the fabulous new Regional Perf | 12/26/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"". . . appealing and gutsy . . . " (William Raidy, Newark Star-Ledger) ". . . An engaging musical . . . a musical with a message and a welcome surprise . . . " (Jeffrey Lyons, CBS Radio) ". . . the show casts a pall over the audience." (Frank Rich, New York Times) ". . . a lifeless score and humorless book . . . " (John Kendrick, [...]) "Considered by some to be one of the ten worst Broadway plays. " (Victoria Woodhull website)
After three weeks of previews, ONWARD VICTORIA opened (and closed) at the Martin Beck Theatre on December 14, 1980. Eight months later, members of the original cast gathered at RCA Studios in New York to record the show. I, for one, am extremely grateful that they did and am indebted to Original Cast Records for its remastered 1994 CD release. Usually in agreement with John Kendrick, I do not find the score "lifeless." Rather, I find it refreshing and inventive; an "old-fashioned" Broadway score in the very best sense of the term.
Economic reality has extracted a heavy toll from the Broadway musical, primarily in the number of singers and dancers employed and the size and quality of the orchestra. String sections have been replaced by synthesizers; a crack dance corps and a separate big-voiced chorus have given way to 16 or fewer singer/dancers who do neither as well as they did in the good old days; the overture has all but disappeared; excellence has been replaced by ordinary. Not the case with ONWARD VICTORIA.
Just give a listen to the excellent vocal writing and choral work in the opening number "In New York The Only Sin Is Being Timid" (listed as "The Age of Brass" on opening night), Victoria's campaign song "Onward Victoria" (or, "Victoria's Banner"), "You Cannot Drown the Dream," and the hymn-parody "A Valentine for Beecher;" and the stand-up-and-cheer second act finale. Incidentally, are those Bach-trumpets I hear in "Valentine?" Maybe the book was humorless, but catch the references to incest as per Sophocles in "Something for the Lord," artfully sung by Jim Jansen, and this line - and others - from "Beecher's Defense": "Plymouth Church should be proud to have a preacher so endowed." Not all the lyrics are as inspired as these ("Love and Joy" is a case in point), but even Oscar Hammerstein, II, penned a few clinkers. How about this gem from SOUND OF MUSIC: "You need someone older and wiser telling you what to do-ooh. I am 17 going on 18. I'll take care of you."
The cast is uniformly excellent, but Jill Eikenberry is a revelation! Known primarily as "Ann Kelsey" on TVs "LA Law" (153 episodes, 1986-1994), she reveals herself as a fine singer-actress in the role of Victoria Woodhull, a feminist who, decades before women won the right to vote, was the Equal Rights Party candidate for President, running against incumbent Ulysses S. Grant. In addition to her campaign-style numbers, Ms. Eikenberry gives us two lovely, character-building ballads, "I've Had a Taste of Forever" & "Another Life." Beth Austin, as Woodhull's sister Tennie Clafin, joins Victoria in "Magnetic Healing" & "I Depend on You" and gets her chance to shine in the big, brassy, show-stopping "Respectable." Lenny Wolpe (Feldzieg in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE), as restaurateur Charlie Delmonico, has a great time with "Unescorted Women;" Jim Jansen (Post Office prosecutor Anthony Comstock) gleefully reveals "Every Day I Do a Little Something for the Lord;" Michael Zaslow (Henry Ward Beecher, charismatic preacher of Brooklyn's Plymouth Church) explains away his wife's infidelity with "A Woman Like Beth" and joins Victoria in "Love and Joy," the only number that, in my opinion, doesn't succeed.
A "lifeless score?" I think not. Rather, a delightful score that transcends its appallingly bad book. (See also WHOOP-UP, ANYONE CAN WHISTLE, et. al.) Without a complete rewrite of the book, it's doubtful that ONWARD VICTORIA will ever again find its way onto the stage, so let's be grateful that this fine recording, with members of the original Broadway cast, is here for us to enjoy.