By Doug Strassler (@)
Two years ago, Amas Musical Theater resurrected a mostly forgotten chestnut, “Red Eye of Love”. Fortunately, those who may have missed its brief run on the Upper East Side’s Dicapo Theater are in luck. Ghostlight Records has released a new cast recording from the show and it boasts some sublime talent, including performers who did not participate in the 2014 production. Tony-winner Kelli O’Hara and Brad Oscar lead the recording, joined by cast members Josh Grisetti, Sam Bolen, Sarah Corey, Nikki Renee Daniels, Christine DiGiallonardo, John Morton, Greg Roderick, Leah Stuart, and Matthew Zimmerman.
Some of the names may have changed but the game remains the same: love and meat. “Red Eye…” is about Selma Chargesse (O’Hara), an upwardly mobile social climber caught between two men: O.O. Martinas, owner of the world’s largest meat store, and Wilmer Flange. “To live right, I live with the wrong man,” O’Hara sings, equal parts resolve and regret. O’Hara continues to work at the top of her game; there’s no doubting that she is one of her generation’s great musical interpreters. Her gorgeous soprano lifts songs like “Yes, Well, Anyway.” She makes the ponderous “Rain” a thing of beauty, while her torchy title track is also laced with nuance.
But “Red Eye…”, which Arnold Weinstein adapted from his own book with help on libretto and lyrics by John Wulp, and with music by Sam Davis, isn’t an overly serious declaration of women’s rights. The show’s marriage of tradition-tinged with whimsy–and even patriotism–perfectly encapsulates the changing role of the musical theatre in 1960s America, with Vaudeville-inspired numbers and some increasingly inspired visual flourishes (some of which can still be imagined while listening to this recording).
Both Grisetti and Oscar know how to navigate the emotionally humorous ebbs and flows to the score. Witness the ebullience Grisetti (so wonderful in the 2014 production) brings to “I’m Going to the Movies,” backed by a snazzy brass background. And let’s not forget Oscar’s bravura, um, tongue-in-cheek delivery of “The Meat Ballet” (“When a plump rump is next to me… “I’m in ecstasy!” is delicious!)
Music director Greg Jarrett’s 12-piece orchestra sounds terrific, especially during the razzmatazz of “Word on the Street” and the march-like “Say Fella.” (Bruce Coughlin did the orchestrations; the CD booklet also comes complete with a plot synopsis, images from the production, and a note from Wulp). The recording, clear as day, perfectly captures the show’s jovial spirit.
Most of all it, the “Red Eye…” cast recording provides a delectable way to preserve this show, with top-notch Broadway talent on board. Any way you slice it, this recording is well done.
For more information, and to purchase the “Red Eye of Love” cast recording, visit www.sh-k-boom.com.