ON THE RECORD: A Gentleman's Guide, Les MisÚrables, Billy Porter and More

By Steven Suskin
20 Apr 2014

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This week's column discusses the cast recordings of A Gentleman's Guide, Les Misérables, Murder for Two, Privates on Parade and Billy Porter's solo CD "Billy's Back on Broadway," as well as Christine Ebersole's "Strings Attached."

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It is time, once more, to catch up with a clutch of recent theatrical CDs. The current group is led by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak's A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder [Ghostlight], which has been entrancing audiences since it opened in November at the Walter Kerr. This stylish entertainment stars Bryce Pinkham as a distant relative to a titled family in Edwardian England, with Jefferson Mays playing the eight D'Ysquith relatives who stand in Monty's way to title and fortune (and whom he unceremoniously bumps off).

If this sounds like that jolly old Alec Guinness movie "Kind Hearts and Coronets," there is a reason. Both are based on the same source, the 1907 novel "Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal" by Roy Horniman. (My understanding is that Freedman & Lutvak were hired by producers who controlled the adaptation rights to the screenplay, but said producers at some point decided to switch songwriters. Freedman & Lutvak retained their score, removed copyrighted material created for the film version, and went ahead with characters and complications existing in the original, public-domain novel.)



A Gentleman's Guide originated at Hartford Stage in October 2012, directed by that regional's artistic director, Darko Tresnjak. On the heels of good reviews — including an outright rave from the New York Times — the show was remounted in March at The Old Globe in San Diego, and with a virtually all new cast (other than Mays and heroine Lisa O'Hare) and opened at the Walter Kerr as the first important new musical of the current season. While the 2014 Tony Award nominations will not be announced until April 29, A Gentleman's Guide can be seen as a prime contender for a clutch of nods.

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Likely to be battling the aforementioned Mays in the Best Actor category is Ramin Karimloo, Broadway's newest Jean Valjean in the just-opened revival of Les Misérables at the Imperial. Timed to accompany the opening was the U.S. release of Les Misérables Live!: Dream the Dream. As it turns out, this is not the new Broadway cast album; this is the 2010 "25th Anniversary Production" album. (It does not feature Karimloo, who appeared in the 25th Anniversary Concert but not the 25th Anniversary tour). The present recording — with John Owen-Jones as Valjean and Earl Carpenter as Javert — does, though, reflect the revised version used in the current Broadway engagement, as directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell. Also included are the new orchestrations by Chris Jahnke, with additional charts by Stephen Metcalfe and Stephen Brooker. (That's the billing on the recording; the trio are equally credited at the Imperial.)

There are three dozen or so cast albums of Les Misérables and no, I have not assiduously tracked them all down. Presumably, there will be yet another with Karimloo and the current Broadway cast. That said, this 2010 recording is presumably of great interest to fans of the show, as the production was carefully reconceived by Cameron Mackintosh for current-day conditions and audiences.

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