Friday, August 26, 2016

Paramour - Original Broadway Cast Recording Review

Why is it so hard for Cirque du Soleil to engage an experienced musical composer from Broadway to lead their New York based shows?

It's the troupe's third attempt at breaking into the market, and each time has been a sadly disappointing offering. Paramour is the closest Cirque has come to creating a traditional musical, but as always, the composition doesn't fall to a well known composer or team of creatives, but to those they know best, composers Bob et Bill (Guy Dubuc & Marc Lessard), who have scored a jaw-dropping nine original scores for the company. Perplexingly joined by Andreas Carlsson, it was a missed opportunity to let this team write the score for a big scale musical in the Big Apple. Wanting to conquer the New York theatre scene without engaging composers who have ever worked there before - will Cirque ever have the courage of their ambition?

The premise in Paramour is a sticky love triangle set to the backdrop of a movie being made, which spans multiple different genres. It actually wasn't so long ago that we were presented with a musical score of a similar premise - Carter Burwell's score from Hail, Caesar! also had the composer going through different ages, times and styles to the premise of the audience visiting various 'movies'. It was extremely theatrical and probably would have been smarter framework than the flimsy love-story here. To their credit, the team manage to evoke these movie genres extremely well, with all the textures and instrumentation you'd expect in hackneyed spaghetti Western ('Help a Girl to Choose'), biblical epic ('Cleopatra') and mobster crime noir (NYC Rooftops) films. Other songs make interesting homages to old school musicals and Hollywood - 'Everything' sounds like a blend of 'Maybe' from Miss Saigon crossed with some more irritating material from Sunset Boulevard, such as 'Too Much In Love to Care'.

On the other hand, there's the usual Bob et Bill percussion-noise driven filler crap ('Revenge Fantasies', 'NYC Rooftops' - does anyone ever listen to these tracks after the first listen?), but also extremely satisfying moments, such as the highlight 'Egyptian Gift', an instrumental moment both clandestine and exotic, with booming drums and an arresting violin peppered across which sounds like magic. 'The Hollywood Wiz' is exactly the kind of opener a big-scale show needs - a grand, vaudeville feeling show-man tune with a strong contribution from the ensemble and a big voice. Maddeningly, unlike any well structured musical with themes and leitmotifs for characters, each 2-3 minute song in Paramour tries to make a new melody which is dead and buried before it even takes off. There are two brief reprises of songs, but nothing sophisticated or clever . . . maybe there are more, but I don't care to listen to it again to find out.

Who are the key players in Paramour? Ruby Lewis makes her debut with the role of Indigo, Ryan Vona plays composer Joey and Jeremy Kushnier plays AJ. They've all got awesome, powerful and vibrant voices, a belting hybrid of classical musical theatre and pop, with a bit of rough and raw power. It's just too bad that their material ranges from average to awkwardly bad.

The lyrics suck. There are too many instances where the most cringy, predictable rhymes you hope won't happen do happen, so there's really no point identifying examples. Honestly, what were we expecting from Andreas Carlsson, a man who writes lyrics for the likes of Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and NSYNC? This is Broadway, where the story is sometimes as important as the music - frankly it's not good enough and really lets the whole production down (chuck on 'Ginger Top' and 'Love Triangle' for a laugh, as they are worst offenders).

All in all, a passable but disappointing offering from Cirque du Soleil in their attempt at global domination. Talented cast members can't make up for unforgivable lyrics, and the music is not sophisticated or up to scratch to rank with the best shows on Broadway. Maybe one day, Cirque du Soleil will dare to work with some new composers, but until the day comes, there won't be a stand out performance from them on Broadway.

'Cirque du Soleil Paramour - Original Broadway Cast Recording' by Cirque du Soleil is available digitally on iTunes and, and is also available on Spotify & physical CD.