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Monday, May 2, 2011

Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown - Original Broadway Cast

Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown - Original Broadway Cast
2011, Ghostlight Records

The Lincoln Center's limited run of Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown ended much too soon, to judge by the original cast recording due from Ghostlight Records on May 10, 2011.  Jeffrey Lane (book) and David Yazbeck (music and lyrics) have taken the heart of Pedro Almodovar's 1988 Oscar-nominated film and infused it with their trademark wit and musical magic.  Under the direction of Bartlett Sher (South Pacific), the show received accolades from press both regional and national.  Lane and Yazback's (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) book and score set an impressive foundation set in 1980's Spain, exploring the love life menagerie of four women and the effects on those around them.

The cast alone will convince you to the buy the album:  Sherie René Scott,  Patti Lupone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Laura Benanti, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, de'Ardre Aziza, Danny Burstein and American-Idol alum Justin Guarini bring the show to delirious life on CD/MP3.  Burstein is sort of the Jiminy Cricket of the crew, providing guidance to the characters as they revel in the social and sexual freedoms of post-Franco Spain.  He gets things started with the snappy "Madrid Is My Mama", setting the stage with a mammary obsession and Stax-Style horns all dolled up with Latin rhythms.  "Lie To Me" features Sherie René Scott and Brian Stokes Mitchell in stage-setter that establishes the unstable relationship that drives the later action.  "Lovesick" is one of the brightest moments on the soundtrack, with Sherie René Scott taking the lead on a clinical dissection of romantic desperation that is both funny and endearing.

Patti Lupone is front and center on the ever-changing "Time Stood Still", reminiscence on falling in love that transforms from a 1950's-style pop number to a Broadway soliloquy before settling into an R&B mode as it closes.  Laura Benanti takes narcissism to the extreme in "Model Behavior", perhaps the most hilarious turn of the show.  The series of answering machine messages show manically borderline tendencies and play them for maximum comedic effect, while also serving to derail the ultimate reconciliation between Pepa (Sherie René Scott) and Ivan (Brian Stokes-Mitchell).  "On The Verge" closes act one with a pure dose of insanity that's catchy and perfectly sung by the ensemble.

Sherie René Scott gives a standout performance on "Mother's Day".  It's the sort of performance that could (or should) single-handedly earn her a Tony nomination; a grand soliloquy that turns the action of the show toward the eventual resolution.  Scott is in perfect voice here, and sells the song like she's lived it.  Brian Stokes Mitchell follows with a catchy exploration of the permanence of love and the impermanence of its objects.  "Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today" is amusingly bittersweet, moving from the glory of bachelorhood into the beginnings of realization of what might be lost.  "Tangled" is the pressure point of the show, with the entire ensemble feeling the pains of the messy paths they've wrought.  Burstein acts as the strong shoulder/counselor that helps them get (mostly) back on track.  Patti Lupone's performance on "Invisible" is, well, Patti Lupone.  Need we say more?  "Shoes From Heaven" seems a somewhat disconnect closing number; perhaps making more sense in context of the actual performance, but definitely a bit out of focus on the cast recording.  The cast recording includes a bonus track, "My Crazy Heart".  This was the original opening of the show.  It's a solid tune, but it's evident why the song was cut.  It would have gotten things off to a less than smashing start, and doesn't really fit into the flow of the show as presented here.

Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown pleases on several fronts in spite of a somewhat weak closing number.  The entire ensemble is at the top of their game, but Sherie René Scott, Patti Lupone, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Laura Benanti stand out even from an exceptional cast.  This is one of those shows where the soundtrack never quite fits together as well in recorded media as it does in the context of the show, but is nevertheless an amazing document of a show whose run on Broadway was much too short.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown at  The original cast recording drops on May 10, 2011 on CD. has Downloads available, and pre-orders for the CD.  Digital versions are also available via iTunes.

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