Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Frank Wildhorn


So recently I've taken up what some might call a new obsession.  Everyone who's even dabbled (isn't that a cool word?) in the field of musical theater has become acquainted with names such as Steven Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.  But there are lots of talented artists out there who create masterpieces and don't seem to be recognized to the same extent (I will likely bring up many of them in following posts).  The one that currently holds my obsession goes by the name of Frank Wildhorn.

My first encounter with Wildhorn came about three years ago (give or take a month) in the form of Jekyll & Hyde The Musical.

  Although a few cracks have been made about the shows casting, myself and others revere it for the masterpiece it is.  It has very little to do with the book (I personally was disappointed in the book after seeing the musical) but has a fantastic score.  With charming ballads (e.g.This is the Moment),  rousing ensemble songs (e.g.Facade), and chilling evil songs (e.g.Dangerous Game).  The role of Jekyll/Hyde quickly worked its way into my most sought after role ever and to this day it is my dream role to play one day (Although it didn't really fit a category, you need to hear Confrontation too...and the entire soundtrack, there are so many AMAZING songs!!!!!).  Of course, as I found J&H, I had never heard of Wildhorn and didn't pay much interest to the name of the composer.  However, a few years later, the name once again drew my attention.  

This time it came as a side note while watching a medley, I was captured by a few lyrics of a song called Madame Guillotine.  Research led me to my my next discovery: The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Though Jekyll & Hyde will forever be my favorite of his shows, The Scarlet Pimpernel was indeed a masterpiece.  I had recently read the book, and was pretty thrilled to see it in musical form.  Since Wildhorn (as you may be guessing if you've already listened to any of the J&H songs) has a flare for the epic, the villain (Chauvelin) gets most of the best songs.  But once again, although there are a few "duds" in my opinion, there are also plenty of good songs.  Into the Fire (the song they did at the Tony's) is a nice inspiring song.  Falcon in the Dive is one of my recent favorite angry songs, The Riddle is a fun ensemble song, and Where's the Girl is also great in a chilling sort of way.

After these two great successes, I started to look for shows specifically by Frank Wildhorn.  The first of these I found was "The Civil War".
Now, unfortunately, with this show came my first disappointment in Wildhorn.  Don't get me wrong the show is quite good, but unfortunately this time the number of "dud" songs that are inevitable in almost every show (even Phantom and Cats have them in my opinion) seemed to outweigh the good ones.  now, I haven't listened to them in quite some time, and I may have just had a bad day whilst listening to them the first time, but to me the only song that is worthy of mentioning here is By The Sword/Sons of Dixie.  Sons of Freedom (the song they did at the Tony's) was also pretty good (but I found that just recently, and it's not as good).

The next show I found specifically because I was looking for it and waiting for it.  You see, just this year Wildhorn teamed with Jack Murphy again to create Wonderland.

As everyone who tackles Alice's adventurous story, he completely makes up his own plot.  I don't know why, but it seems so many writers are attracted to the whimsical nature of the story but then feel the need to rewrite the entire plot-line (but I digress).  In my opinion, this is Wildhorn's best show since Jekyll & Hyde.  Although I've only been able to hear the "concept recording", I find only two "dud" songs in the entire soundtrack (which isn't bad).  Although it's not one of those shows that completely redefines theater for years, it is a good show.  Unfortunately (like most of Wildhorn's shows) the critics don't seem to appreciate it.  Most critics nail the plot and "bland lyrics", and thus it didn't get any Tony nominations this year (drat), but I still think it's a fantastic show.  As in all of Wildhorn's shows, it has it's epic songs (e.g. Nick of Time).  However, for the first time, it was his more fun-loving and bouncy kind of songs that I enjoyed most in the soundtrack.  Songs like Keep on Dancing, and Through The Looking Glass are simply fun and addicting!  There are good ballads too (e.g. Finding Wonderland) but that wasn't were this show's strength was (in my opinion).  Of course, as in J&H, I would encourage you to listen to the entire soundtrack, because practically every song is a winner!

My final brush with Wildhorn (yet) came when I saw one of his first shows: Dracula.

This show was pretty good.  Unfortunately (because of the internet's inconsistancy) I have yet to be able to hear the entire soundtrack to the show.  But I have heard enough to know that it does have some great songs and some "duds".  Unfortunately, I'm at a relative loss as for a plot line.  Wikipedia was vaguely helpful, but there are a lot of holes to this show that I don't quite understand yet (I only found it a few weeks ago).  But, I can tell you that songs like "The Master's Song" and "Before the Summer" are kinda catchy, and are worth listening to.  This show too got negative reviews, but apparently did well in Australia :P

As for Wildhorn's other projects, there are quite a few.  Shows like "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "Victor/Victoria" I have yet to look into, but I imagine are pretty good too.  I also hear that his dark side is once again shining through and he's working on a version of "Frankenstein" (which promises to be exciting).  If you want to hear more I'd suggest going to his website

*You should probably know that I suggest you listen to the entire soundtracks for all these shows if you find the time.  You should be warned that Jekyll & Hyde has some language issues, but for the most part, his shows don't get *too* bad.  Especially J&H and Wonderland I would HIGHLY suggest you listen to the entire soundtrack as soon as possible (I've been listening to J&H as I typed this and I'm reminded of it's genius).  They actually made a movie of Jekyll & Hyde but it is relatively impossible to find.  If someone does find a copy let me know, 'CAUSE I WANT TO WATCH IT!!!!!

* Archibald the asparagus's voice* "This has been Broadway songs with Luke, tune in next time to hear Luke Say:"  "Have I ever told you about Jason Robert Brown?"

This is the Moment[Jekyll & Hyde]--
Facade[Jekyll & Hyde]--
Dangerous Game[Jekyll & Hyde]--
Confrontation[Jekyll & Hyde]--
Madame Guillotine[The Scarlet Pimpernel]--
Into The Fire[The Scarlet Pimpernel]--
Falcon in the Dive[The Scarlet Pimpernel]--
The Riddle[The Scarlet Pimpernel]--
Where's the Girl[The Scarlet Pimpernel]--
By The Sword/Sons of Dixie[The Civil War]--
Sons of Freedom [The Civil War]--
Nick of Time [Wonderland]--
Keep on Dancing [Wonderland]--
Through the Looking Glass [Wonderland]--
Finding Wonderland [Wonderland]--
The Master's Song [Dracula]--
Before the Summer Ends[Dracula]--

1 comment:

  1. As a quick update. Wildhorn's newest show "Bonnie & Clyde) just opened on Broadway a few weeks ago. It has a stellar cast and many people are calling it Wildhorn's best work yet. The whole album isn't out yet, so I can't say for sure, but from what I have heard it certainly isn't bad. Here's my favorite song they've released: