Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Original Cast Recording) (Ghostlight Records)
Given the limited run (a mere 69 performances) that Lincoln Center Theater offered this new musical from composer/lyricist David Yazbek and bookwriter Jeffrey Lane, musical theater fans might have been understandably afraid that the show might never receive an original cast recording. Thankfully, Ghostlight Records has stepped up to the plate to preserve the piece and the production's bravura performances from its A-list cast.
Based on the film of the same title by Pedro Almodovar, the show, set in Madrid, charts the bizarrely converging love lives of a quartet of women, all of whom are pushed to the brink by the men in their lives. The Iberian setting gives Yazbek the opportunity to experiment with a variety of Latin rhythms in the score while the heightened emotions of the story call for a certain musical spikiness. Yazbek rises to the occasion, providing a wide variety of edgy tunes that also evoke pop and Broadway traditions, and while the combination of styles isn't always completely successful, there's no question that there is an ambition at work in the piece that deserves serious consideration.
Certain numbers do just pop off the recording, including "Lovesick," which is just one of several numbers deftly handled by Sherie Rene Scott as Pepa, and "The Microphone," which Brian Stokes Mitchell, playing the womanizing Ivan, sonorously infuses with swarthy sexiness and insincerity. Additionally, there's what might be one of the most sprawlingly funny numbers ever written for the theater, "Model Behavior." Delivered with comic gusto by Laura Benanti, this song hysterically brings a series of increasingly frantic and scattered voicemails to life.
At the other end of the spectrum are the two numbers performed by Patti LuPone, who plays Ivan's ex-wife, Lucia. In these instances, Yazbek references a bygone era of music, while also delving into the character's psychotic nature. LuPone's delivery of both the upbeat "Time Stood Still" and the heartbreakingly vulnerable and intensely passionate "Invisible" was riveting onstage and proves to be equally so on disc.
A full-color booklet (available both with physical purchase and digital download) -- featuring notes from Frank Rich along with a synopsis and lyrics -- proves to be the perfect companion to a recording that will be hotly devoured (and most likely debated) by musical theater fans for some time.