By Sherry Shaffer
Alan Menken (best known for Little Shop of Horrors and various Disney hits) and David Spencer wrote the music and lyrics, with Alan Brennert as the book writer. Brennert adapted Her Pilgrim Soul from his own short story; The Girl is taken from another writer’s work. Ellen Greene, Jonathan Hadary, Sal Viviano, Danny Burstein, Jessica Molaskey, Valarie Pettiford, and Eric Riley make up the cast of both halves and are featured on the original cast album.
Reviews of the show were tepid, especially for the first act, The Girl, but has since achieved a bit of a cult following. Listening to the album, I could understand why most of the praise went to the second half, Her Pilgrim Soul. The Girl has some good moments and the songs are pleasant enough. (Critics did not like the staging and felt the characters were restrictive, something that isn’t a consideration if all you’re doing is listening to the album.) Ellen Greene gets some nice mileage out of “Feeling No Pain” and “Stop and See Me”, but it’s almost like Menken saved the really good stuff for Brennert’s story. Or maybe the story itself is just more romantic – The Girl comes off more as a cautionary tale – fitting the style of music better. The mix of explanatory, comic, and romantic songs gives you the gist without having to see the show. I listened to this with little background, but was able to get the full reach of the story just through the music – I looked up a complete synopsis later. Danny Burstein’s comic turn as the lab assistant with “Need to Know” is catchy, light and very funny. Ellen Greene as the hologram and Jonathan Hadary as the scientist darn near brought me to tears during the final duet, “Someone is Waiting.”
The cast of Weird Romance is made up of strong voices who sing with emotion and bring out the best in the songs. (Ignore the opening number, “Weird Romance” and you’ll feel much better about the whole show. It’s jarring and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the score at all.) I enjoyed this album. It’s not as funny as Little Shop of Horrors or as jubilantly romantic as Beauty and the Beast, but it’s well-written with a few numbers that will pleasantly stay with you and have you humming the refrain.
Weird Romance: Two One-Act Musicals of Speculative Fiction
Release Date: November 30, 2010
Label: Masterworks Broadway
Performers: Danny Burstein (Daniel, Fan, Technician, Reporters), Ellen Greene (P. Burke, Nola), Jonathan Hadary (Isham, Kevin), Marguerite MacIntyre (Delphi, Fan, Susan), Jessica Molaskey (Carol, Fan, Voice Coach, Technician, Voice), Valarie Pettiford (Shannara, Rebecca, Make-up Specialist, Technician), Eric Riley (Zanth, Movement Coach, Technician, George Lester), Sal Viviano (Paul, Johnny Beaumont), William Youmans (Joe, Chuck, John Ruskin)
Conductor, Keyboard I: Kathy Sommer
Associate Conductor, Keyboard II: Garth Roberts
Bass: Steve Mack
Drums, Percussion: Ray Grappone
Synthesizer Programming: Douglas Besterman
Orchestrations by Douglas Besterman
Musical Direction and Vocal Arrangements by Kathy Somme