Just months before this Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse tuner returns to Broadway with a cast headlined by Constantine Maroulis in the title roles, comes this concept recording, with not just the new production's star, but also his leading ladies, Deborah Cox and Teal Wicks, along with other notables such as Corey Brunish and Tom Hewitt in cameo appearances. Maroulis often sounds persuasive, but he also sounds as if he might still be finding his way with the dual roles. More successful are the women, who deliver familiar tunes like "Someone Like You" and "Once Upon a Dream" with gusto.
Calvin Berger (Original Cast Recording) (Ghostlight Records)
Book writer, composer and lyricist Barry Wyner offers up a charming look at the awkwardness of teen romance in this tuner that's a riff on Edmond de Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. It'a vest pocket version of the tale about a guy wooing a girl on another's behalf, performed by a winning quartet, Noah Weisberg in the title role, along with Krystal Joy Brown, David Hull and Dana Steingold. Wyner's richly melodic songs have a dissonant edginess to them that perfectly underscores the seesawing emotions of adolescence, and his lyrics are playfully colloquial particularly in "We're the Man!," in which the guys come to realize that they should combine their looks and wits to create the perfect dude.
35mm: A Musical Exhibition (Ghostlight Records)
This recording takes listeners through a gritty urban art gallery of sorts, provocatively dropping them into snapshots of lives, emotions, and ideas. Ryan Scott Oliver's songs, inspired by photographs by Matthew Murphy, are a mix of contemporary rock sounds that are delivered with intensity by the likes of Broadway vets Alex Brightman, Lindsay Mendez, and Betsy Wolfe. Among the albums standouts are "Caralee," a curiously infectious tune that takes its cue from a couple of pictures of a doll; the invective-filled "Make Me Happy," which has its basis in a somewhat surreal photo of a couple brandishing smiley face masks; and the southern-fried "Leave, Luanne," written to match a snapshot of a guy with a deer head on his torso.
Next Thing You Know (Yellow Sound Label)
The aspirations, loves, and disappointments of a quartet of four thirtysomething New Yorkers come poignantly to life in this decidedly hip tuner from the team that also penned I Love You Because. Composer Joshua Salzman's tunes, a mix of pop, country, and Latin sounds, have both a jaunty twang and an air of melancholy to them while Ryan Cunningham's lyrics offer up both keen observations about hitting one's 30s (Lauren Blackman's performance in one song about becoming inured to the city is heartbreaking) and some comic gems, notably in a guy's paean to himself and the way he treats his pickups the morning they've connected, delivered with preening flair by Jay Armstrong Johnson.