Catch up on your reading and listening with these four selections of recent book and music releases from artists and shows of the New York stage, including an original cast album, the second volume of songs about the immigrant experience, the script of a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and a collection of three works by a Tony-winning playwright.
Harmony – In advance of its Broadway opening at the Barrymore Theatre on November 13, following a sold-out multi-award-nominated Off-Broadway run last spring at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, the original cast recording of the new musical by Barry Manilow (music) and Bruce Sussman (book and lyrics) is now available from Ghostlight Records in digital and streaming formats from a variety of top music services.
Based on the true rags-to-riches story of The Comedian Harmonists – a largely forgotten group of six talented young men who began by singing in the subway tunnels of Berlin, then catapulted to international fame, sold millions of records, made dozens of films, and sold out theaters around the world in the 1920s and ‘30s with their masterful vocal harmonies and musical comedy antics – the album features 16 songs from the two-act musical, performed by stars Chip Zien, Sierra Boggess, Julie Benko, Allison Semmes, and the sensational company of Harmonists, given new life and authentic stylings by Sean Bell, Danny Kornfeld, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman, and Steven Telsey.
Jaime Lozano & The Familia, Songs by an Immigrant Vol. 2 – The new 18-track 90-minute album by musical multi-hyphenate Jaime Lozano and his close circle of Latiné family, friends, and collaborators was released on September 15, to launch this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month and is now available for streaming and download across all popular music platforms. As always, the Mexican-born NYC-based composer has dedicated his latest labor of love to giving a voice to the immigrant community by telling the stories of their experiences through his affecting music, in a signature fusion of traditional Latin rhythms with the stylings of Broadway showtune ballads that pays homage to his and their dual cultures.
Arranged and orchestrated by Lozano and Jesús Altamira, edited and mixed by Demián Cantú at La Casita Recording Studio in Monterrey, Mexico, and mastered by Oscar Zambrano at Zampol Productions in NYC, the compositions relate personal narratives through expressive lyrics, written and performed in English and Spanish by an all-Latiné roster of talents. They include such long-time “Familia” members as lyricists Georgie Castilla, Marina Pires, and Neena Beber, and vocalists Mau Martinez, Mandy Gonzalez, Robi Hager, Florencia Cuenca, Shereen Pimentel, Javier Ignacio, and more, along with Lozano himself, all opening their hearts and filling the songs with honesty and a range of resonant emotions.
James Ijames, Fat Ham – Following its digital premiere with Philadelphia’s Wilma Theater in April 2021, the smart, funny, and sensitive modern-day adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet by the Philly-based playwright and educator made its Off-Broadway stage debut at The Public Theater in May 2022 – the year it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama – then transferred to Broadway in 2023, and was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Play.
Set in our post-modern times in the American South, the story follows the journey of Juicy, a young queer Black man confronted during a backyard barbecue by the ghost of his father, who demands that his son avenge his murder. But Juicy, well-versed in the Shakespearean tragedy, tries instead to break the cycles of trauma, toxic masculinity, and violence that have plagued his family, in favor of an upbeat ending that celebrates life in all its diversity. The book of the highly acclaimed show, including its production history, was recently published by Theatre Communications Group (TCG) in paperback format (ISBN 978-1636701684, 112 pages, $17.95). Available online and in bookstores everywhere, it’s a must-have addition to every theater-lover’s library.
Steven Levenson, If I Forget and Other Plays – In August, TCG – North America’s largest independent trade publisher of dramatic literature, with 20 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama on its booklist – also released the paperback volume of three works – the titular If I Forget, The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin, and The Language of Trees – by Tony-winning playwright Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen).
Written in a natural style of conversation and speech patterns, with frequent pauses and interruptions, and interspersed with surreal poetic passages, the engrossing family dramas, which had their world premieres at Roundabout Theatre Company in 2017, 2013, and 2008, respectively, offer profound characterizations of flawed individuals, who argue, support, sacrifice, and search for meaning and forgiveness from friends and kin in an imperfect world, as destructive secrets are kept, then revealed, and the characters must come to terms with their unsettling past actions and relationships for a chance at a new beginning. Once you open this thoroughly compelling paperback (ISBN 978-1-63670-007-6, 344 pages, $22.95), you won’t be able to put it down; I couldn’t.