Paradise Square's previously announced cast recording is finally seeing the light of day via a somewhat-under-the-radar release on composer Jason Howland's Instagram. Though we knew it had been fully recorded, the prospects for a release of the album had become shaky following the high-profile financial and legal woes for producer Garth Drabinsky that emerged in the musical's final weeks on Broadway.
You can find 13 tracks (as of the time of publication) at Instagram.com/JasonHowlandMusic. The production previously released Joaquina Kalukango's performance of the show's "Let it Burn" from the album; Kalukango, currently starring as The Witch in Broadway's Into the Woods, won a 2022 Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award for her performance in Paradise Square.
Drabinsky's Paradise Square troubles began shortly before the Tony-nominated musical's July closing when Equity and United Scenic Artists Local USA 829 filed legal actions seeking to collect nearly $350,000 in benefit contributions, wages, and payments owed to both unions and their members cumulatively. Equity subsequently added Drabinsky to its "Do Not Work" list, barring Drabinsky from hiring union members and effectively ending his ability to produce on Broadway and at many major theatrical venues across the country, many of which operate under contracts requiring the use of Equity performers.
In October, the embattled producer responded by suing Equity for defamation, saying the union had unjustly characterized him as racist. Amongst Drabinsky's responses to this allegation included in the suit was a list of "Black American artists" that Drabinsky "made...his priority to engage...in principal roles and major creative positions in his productions," including Vanessa Williams, Diahann Carroll, Gretha Boston, Michel Bell, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Audra McDonald, Desmond Richardson, Valarie Pettiford, Joaquina Kalukango, Sidney DuPont, Bill T. Jones, Toni-Leslie James, Masi Asare, and "countless other less prominent Black Americans who were vital contributors to the artistic and commercial success of his productions."
And, the musical's cast recording did not escape the drama. According to a TikTok video posted by Paradise Square ensemblist Hailee Kaleem Wright (now starring as Catherine of Aragon in Broadway's SIX), payments for the cast album recording session were among the unpaid wages as of July 14, though it's unclear if they have since been paid. No official announcements were made about the album's release following the news that it was in the works last April.
The Paradise Square legal drama is not Drabinsky's first. The Ragtime and Show Boat producer was convicted of fraud and forgery in 2009 following the dissolution of his production company Livent. Paradise Square was Drabinsky's first Broadway outing since being granted parole and released from prison in 2014.
According to the initial announcement for the album, Paradise Square's Original Broadway Cast Recording is produced by Grammy winners Howland and Billy Jay Stein, known for their collaboration on Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Drabinsky served as executive producer, with Craig Haffner, Sherry Wright, and Jeffrey A. Sine as co-executive producers.
Paradise Square was conceived by Black 47 frontman Larry Kirwan. Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas, and Kirwan penned the musical's book to a score with music by Howland, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Masi Asare, and additional music by Kirwan. The musical opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway April 3, 2022 following pre-Broadway engagements in Berkeley, California, and Chicago. The final Broadway performance was July 17.
Directed by Moisés Kaufman and choreographed by Tony winner Bill T. Jones, the work takes place during the Civil War and follows a group of Irish immigrants and Black Americans fighting for a similar cause. It features a 40-member cast led by Kalukango, Chilina Kennedy, Tony nominee John Dossett, Matt Bogart, Kevin Dennis, Nathaniel Stampley, A.J. Shively, Sidney DuPont, Gabrielle McClinton, and Jacob Fishel.
The company also included Colin Barkell, Garrett Coleman, Karen Burthwright, Kennedy Caughell, Dwayne Clark, Colin Cunliffe, Chloe Davis, Josh Davis, Bernard Dotson, Jamal Christopher Douglas, Sam Edgerly, Shiloh Goodin, Sean Jenness, Joshua Keith, Jay McKenzie, Ben Michael, Jason Oremus, Kayla Pecchioni, Eilis Quinn, Lee Siegel, Erica Spyres, Lael Van Keuren, Sir Brock Warren, and Hailee Kaleem Wright. Rounding out the cast were standby Aisha Jackson and swings Conor Coleman, Eric Craig, Camille Eanga-Selenge, Alan Wiggins, and Kristen Beth Williams.