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Friday, June 09, 2017

LGBT Playlist 2017– Not Just a Stage

Written by  Gregg Shapiro

Here’s why Hello, Dolly!: The New Broadway Cast Recording (Masterworks Broadway) is one of the gayest things you’re likely to hear this year. Hello, Dolly! is a musical based on the play The Matchmaker, written by Thornton Wilder, a gay man. The musical comedy Hello, Dolly! features music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, a gay man, and a book by Michael Stewart, also a gay man. The 2017 revival stars the Tony-nominated Bette Midler in the lead role. Midler is a singer and actress who first achieved great acclaim for her performances at gay NYC bathhouse, the Continental Baths, and has long acknowledged and vocally supported her LGBTQ fan-base. Cast members David Hyde Pierce and Gavin Creel are also openly gay. Even the subject matter, about a slightly audacious meddler with ulterior motives who “arranges things,” has a gay glow to it. Midler shines as Dolly Levi. As you can hear, she sings in character (with a nod here and there to the original Dolly, Carol Channing) and fully embodies the role in songs such as “Before The Parade Passes By,” “So Long Dearie” and “Dancing.” Pierce even gets a solo, “Penny In My Pocket,” which was restored for the production.

A comedy with music, the film version of queer playwright Stephen Karam’s play Speech & Debate includes original cast member Sarah Steele as one of the three teen misfits (including one who’s gay) taking a stand against the conservative adults in their hometown. The source of the ruckus is a high school production of Mary Rodgers’ One Upon A Mattress. Speech & Debate: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Broadway), features a portion of “Happily Ever After” from …Mattress. There are also songs from Hamilton, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and The King and I, as well as original songs by Karam such as “More Weight” and “Hold It In,” and Kristin Chenoweth singing “Losers Are Winners (Flying Free).”

Speaking of Mary Rodgers, her father Richard Rodgers was one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century; the man behind such eternal musicals as Oklahoma!, The King and I, The Sound of Music and Pal Joey, among many others. Billy Porter presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers (Masterworks) by Tony and Grammy Award-winner Billy Porter and an impressive array of guest artists reveals another side to Rodgers familiar tunes. Via collaborations with Pentatonix (“Oh, What A Beautiful Morning”), Deborah Cox (“This Nearly Was Mine”), Todrick Hall (“I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”), India.Arie (the very timely “Carefully Taught”) and others, Porter and his pals have the power to share Rodgers with an entirely new audience.

Like Billy Porter, Tyce, described as a “key player in the Broadway community,” is focusing on one songwriter on his double-disc debut Hero (Broadway). That songwriter is Jim Steinman, best known for his longtime working partnership with Meat Loaf. Revisiting Steinman’s dramatic songs made famous by Mr. Loaf (“Heaven Can Wait” and “I’d Do Anything For Love”), Barbra Streisand (“Left In the Dark”), Bonnie Tyler (“Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Holding Out for a Hero”) and Celine Dion (“It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”), Tyce succeeds in making these immediately recognizable songs his own, and that’s no easy fete. However, it’s unclear why, as an openly gay artist, Tyce didn’t make pronoun adjustments to “Left In the Dark.”

Benj Pasek, the gay half of acclaimed songwriting duo Pasek and Paul, is enjoying quite a year with his creative partner Justin Paul. The pair scored an Oscar for their work on Damien Chazelle’s La La Land and have the biggest hit of their theatrical careers with Dear Evan Hansen, a musical about a teen with social anxiety that is a massive success currently on Broadway. The 14 songs on Dear Evan Hansen: Original Broadway Cast Recording (Atlantic), including “Requiem,” “For Forever” and “Good For You,” are excellent examples of the kind of memorable compositions that keep Pasek and Paul in demand.

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