As part of a new series that will introduce our readers to experiencing music (theatre recordings in particular) in Hi-Res audio quality, we narrowed our list down this year using Hi-Def audio products, including the Hi-Res streaming platform Tidal, which offers a huge catalog of Broadway cast albums and theatre recordings.
We streamed the albums on the Harman Kardon Citation One, an affordable Hi-Def multi-room, smart speaker featuring built-in Google Assistant and Chromecast.
Here are five albums this year we kept on repeat.
Heather Headley Broadway My Way
Why it’s on our list: A Broadway star comes home.
After winning the Tony for Aida in 2000, Heather Headley made a name for herself in the recording industry, releasing four pop/R&B albums and nabbing a Grammy Award along the way. Fans rejoiced in 2016 when Headley was announced to join the Broadway revival of The Color Purple—breathing new life into the role of Shug Avery—a stage return 15 years in the making. Her new album, Broadway My Way, is a true homecoming for the star, who made her debut in The Lion King, and records “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” alongside the classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and continues with Wicked’s “For Good” and a rousing “Home” from The Wiz. Fans also get a taste of her turn in The Bodyguard with the Whitney Houston classic “All the Man That I Need,” but the album's supreme track is her nuanced take on Sara Bareilles’ aching anthem from Waitress, “She Used to Be Mine.”
Twelfth Night (Original Public Works Cast Recording)
Why it’s on our list: Shaina Taub is a thrilling new voice in musical theatre.
The acclaimed new musical created by composer-lyricist Shaina Taub, the up-and-coming multi-talent who made her Broadway debut in the cast of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, premiered at the Delacorte Theater in 2017 as part of the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park season, and returned for an encore last summer. Taub’s melody-rich score masterfully spans musical styles—opening with the sounds of a New Orleans jazz band that melts into soul, funk and electro-pop numbers that ultimately bloom into character-driven musical theatre songs. Taub is featured on the album alongside Ato Blankson-Wood, Nikki M. James, and Andrew Kober as Malvolio.
Jessica Vosk Wild and Free
Why it’s on our list: This Broadway breakout album holds its own among any of this year's chart-topping pop albums.
This solo album from Jessica Vosk (Wicked) had the entire theatre industry buzzing when it was released in August. Her powerhouse and pristine vocals aside, the true achievement here is Vosk’s ability to switch musical genres effortlessly, engaging each song with a new vocal attack that is completely truthful to its musical style. Opening with “A Million Dreams” (from The Greatest Showman), Vosk tackles a mash-up of Billy Joel’s “The Entertainer” and Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” as well as Sia’s hit single “Chandelier,” Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares to You,” and Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Has No Pride” like a true rock musician. She returns to Broadway territory with a mash-up of the Beatle’s “Help” that almost goes unnoticed when it brilliantly segues into “Being Alive” from Company, as well as “Nobody’s Side” from Chess.
Mary Poppins Returns
Why it’s on our list: Disney's 1964 classic continues with a score that hearkens back to the Sherman Brothers original.
Tony Award-winning Hairspray songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are the music men behind Disney's sequel to the beloved 1964 classic. The score is fresh and familiar, capturing the Sherman Brothers' style from the Julie Andrews original with performances by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Emily Blunt that lend a contemporary touch.
Once On This Island (New Broadway Cast Recording)
Why it’s on our list: Ahrens and Flaherty’s Tony-nominated score is reborn through new orchestrations that incorporate the human voice and found objects to create an immersive, storytelling experience.
The Tony Award-winning revival directed by Michael Arden is staged in-the-round at Circle in the Square. Set in the aftermath of a hurricane that has devastated a small Caribbean island, the creative team revisited the original orchestrations to embed the score into the action through the use of multi-layered vocal orchestrations, along with instruments made out of found objects, including trash bins, flexible piping, and more. Featuring stand-out performances by Tony nominee Hailey Kilgore as Ti Moune, Lea Salonga Erzulie, Alex Newell as Asaka, Merle Dandridge as Papa Ge, and Quentin Earl Darrington as Agwe—the recording masterfully captures the layered vocals and immersive in-the-round sonic experience of being in the theatre, especially on Salonga’s “The Human Heart,” and the captivating calypso of Darrington’s “Rain."