Summertime car trips, lazy days at the beach or in the park, and leisurely strolls all seem to call for music, and right now, there are a bevy of original cast recordings that allow musical theater fans to while away the time. On these ten discs -- which range from the most recent Tony Award-winning score, to Stephen Sondheim's newest, to rock hits from the 1980s -- there's something to please almost everyone.
Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's Next to Normal
(Ghostlight Records), about a woman's battle with depression and delusion, might not be many people's idea of light summertime fare, but this two-disc set that preserves this Tony-winning score is highly satisfying. Kitt's music is a rich amalgam of pop sounds that have been distilled into a theatrical idiom, and Yorkey's lyrics are consistently incisive. Early on, the two wittily conspire to reference one of the perky chestnuts from Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music as the show's heroine, Diana, attempts to stabilize her medical condition through a series of drug regimens.
Beyond the score, there are the compelling performances from the six-member ensemble, notably Alice Ripley's thrilling and daring performance as Diana. Jennifer Damiano, playing Diana's daughter, gives a performance that's fearless, emotionally and vocally. As Diana's son, Aaron Tveit's vocal pyrotechnics dazzlingly rip into the rock sections of Kitt's score and J. Robert Spencer, playing husband Dan, brings a gentility to the piece that often proves heartbreaking.
Most likely, the richness of Normal on disc means that it will be enjoyed by music theater lovers long after the dog-days of August have passed.