ON THE RECORD: Original Broadway Cast Albums of Matilda, Hands on a Hardbody and Scandalous

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13 Oct 2013

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This week's column examines the original cast albums of three of last season's Broadway musicals: Matilda, Hands on a Hardbody and Scandalous.

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Matilda: The Original Broadway Cast Recording [Broadway/Yellow Sound]

Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly's Matilda The Musical took London by storm when it opened Nov. 24, 2011 and generated a great deal of excitement when it crossed the seas to the Shubert, opening April 11, 2013. Original Broadway cast recordings were long seen as automatic and indispensable, but British blockbusters like The Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia! have discovered they can dominate the world market without bothering with the New York cast. This seemed to be the case with Matilda, but now, six months after the local opening, we finally do have a New York cast album.

The British recording has long been available, of course, and I expect that it has sold fairly well in the States. (This is actually the cast from the Nov. 2010 production, at the Royal Shakespeare Company's home base in Stratford.) Two of the four leading actors — the two with the most important songs, Bertie Carvel as Miss Trunchbull and Lauren Ward as Miss Honey — made the transfer to New York, and could thus already be heard on the earlier recording. (Matilda, the title character, is played by four girls alternating in the role. The Broadway cast album splits the role between the quartet.)

I was impelled to quickly explore the British Matilda album when it was released just over two years ago. Having listened to that recording — and Carvel's performance — several times, I was not all that eager to try the new one. I can now report that the Broadway album is fine; I think, in fact, I prefer it to the original. The major difference performance-wise, for me, is Gabriel Ebert as Mr. Wormwood. (I don't much appreciate the writing of this character, and I didn't enjoy the performance of the fellow who originated the role in Stratford and London. Ebert, I found, was a vast improvement on stage and got my vote for the Tony Award he won.)



As bonus tracks, the Broadway album includes Matilda — three of the Matildas, actually — narrating the story of the escapologist and the acrobat. You might not want to hear this extended sequence every time you listen to the recording, but it's a valuable addition, especially for people who listen to cast recordings but are unable to actually see the show onstage.

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