I'm marking a very big circle around June 3 on my calendar - the date the two-disc original Broadway cast recording of In the Heights will be released. There's an interesting Playbill Radio podcast, taped at the recording session for In the Heights. It made me even more excited to listen to the music again.
What struck me was hearing producer Jeffrey Seller, actor and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda and actress Mandy Gonzalez, who plays Nina, talk about the cast albums they loved growing up. The music - West Side Story, Camelot, Les Miserables, A Chorus Line, Rent, to name a few - had a big impact on their lives.
While I wasn't a huge musical theatre fan as a teenager, I did have a few cast albums and soundtracks: Cabaret, 1776, A Chorus Line, Camelot, Oliver! (Don't laugh. I think I saw the movie when I was 9, and I loved it!) and Hair. I've still got all of them. Except for Hair, I'm pretty sure I started listening to them only after I saw the movie, or in the case of A Chorus Line, on stage in Boston when I was in college.
But for Sellers, Miranda and Gonzalez, the cast albums were their introduction to the shows. They listened to the music long before they saw the musicals on stage. Some of them, they may never have seen, or they may only have seen the movie version. That's one of the things I also found most interesting about The Drowsy Chaperone. Its narrator, Man in Chair, is in love with a musical he's only experienced through a cast album handed down from his mother.
Here's some of what they said:
"When I was growing up in Oak Park, Michigan, my first exposure to shows like A Chorus Line, Evita, Sweeney Todd were through the cast albums. I fell in love with those shows through the cast albums. And then if I was lucky I finally got to see those shows on Broadway. So a cast album is the the first line of attack for more than half of our audiences. It's only a small number of people that actually get to see a Broadway show in the theater in which it was born."
"One of the reasons they [his parents] realized they fell in love was they were comparing record collections and they both had Man of La Mancha and they both had Camelot. My dad saw Man of La Mancha in Puerto Rico and it was an English-language production and he remembers not understanding much of it, but when "The Impossible Dream" came on, just being reduced to tears. So I saw the effect that had on them at a very young age. I think it's probably one of the reasons I'm in this field is I saw how much theatre music can really move people."
"This is my first original cast album and I'm so excited. When I came to New York I always said I want to be on Broadway and I want to be on an original cast album. Because my whole life I've listened to cast albums over and over and over again. So many different cast albums have had such a different effect on different parts of my life. to feel like somebody might do that with this and feel that way with one of my songs is just thrilling. So I can't believe it."