Saturday, July 13, 2013
Album Review: FEBRUARY HOUSE
What a pleasant surprise.
How do I find so many obscure musicals? I go to the iTunes Store and type in 'cast' to the search bar... 90% of the albums are musical cast recordings. I then browse through and pay attention to albums that catch my eye. That's how I discovered February House, a new musical with a score by Gabriel Kahane.
Who is Gabriel Kahane, you may ask? Don't worry, I had no idea either. It turns out that February House is one of Kahane's first forays into musical theatre. He's a young up and coming composer... further inspection found that much of his music is an appealing and quite beautiful combination of contemporary pop and classical sensibilities. You might almost classify his work as 'art songs'.
February House is one of the most potently unique scores to come out in a long time. With little more than a piano, banjo, guitar, violin, and clarinet, Mr. Kahane's music is so full of life and quite disarming. While the banjo is ever present, this certainly isn't 'hoe-down' music... in fact, it's used to quite haunting effect. From the first few bars of the show's beautiful opener Light Upon the Hill, it was instantly apparent that I was not only in for something very different, but very special. As excellent as Kahane's music are his lyrics. They are very poetic, always character driven, and they never feel like a song for song's sake (A complaint often heard about scores such as Duncan Sheik's for Spring Awakening). The music is, interestingly, as poetic as the lyrics themselves... each song is a pastiche of various American music styles... jazz, classical, pop, folk, country, and good ol' fashioned musical theatre. Like the work of composers such as Adam Guettel or Michael John LaChiusa, much of Kahane's score is permeated with dissonance, a strong and effective choice for this theatrical music.
It seems there's seldom a weak musical to emerge from the famous Public Theatre, and February House keeps up that trend. Gabriel Kahane is a unique new voice in musical theatre and there's strong hope that he continues to write shows for a very long time. This score is moving, gorgeous, smart, complex, haunting, and occasionally very funny. Check it out. You'll be happy you did.
Tracks Not to Miss: Goodnight to the Boardinghouse, the powerful Ride Out the Light, the emotionally potent Coney Island (which made my heart drop into my stomach the first time I heard it), and the clever A Little Brain (sung winningly by a terrific Kacie Sheik as Gypsy Rose Lee).