A Sister’s Love Letter to Cast Recordings
Photo Credit: Andrea Klohn
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I constantly listen to cast recordings. On the train, at work, while I’m writing, while I’m walking pretty much anywhere and when I’m playing my own variation of car karaoke.
There is something magical about taking a walk while it’s snowing outside and listening to “A Christmas Song” from Elf. Yes, I love that hokey musical based on the equally hokey and endearing film.
For unashamed Broadway fans like myself, cast recordings are always an opportunity to experience a show in all of its unique, original glory. Or its unique revival glory, looking at you Assassins, featuring Neil Patrick Harris and Michael Cerveris.
But for me, especially recently, there has been more to it than that.
My big sister Jaime, the middle of the three of us, between myself and my oldest sister Nikki, lives in Beijing, China. She’s lived there since I was a preteen (she’s 12 years my senior) so most of our interactions, thanks to the advancement of communication technology, have been electronic. Though I was lucky enough to have Jaime at my wedding last December–suffice it to say we don’t see one another very often.
I’m also a terrible pen pal/email responder, but I am trying to improve.
Anyway. One of the ways Jaime and I have bonded is through our mutual love of Broadway. She gets to as many theatrical performances as she can in Beijing, or elsewhere in the world. I was even able to see The Lion King in Madison with her a few years ago when she came to visit.
Our love of music and performance is something I deeply cherish.
It’s also really fun for me to hear about how things like RENT or Wicked translate both literally and artistically in international production. We swap experiences as if we were both there, which makes me feel like I really was.
But the moment I downloaded the Anastasia cast recording last year I had to tell Jaime. It was the movie she taught me to waltz to when I was 6 and the film came out. I’ve been obsessed with “Once Upon a December” ever since. I even sang the song with my orchestra for the senior recital in high school. So when I heard Christy Altomare perform that song I adore so perfectly, tears rolled down my cheeks.
I’m not a crier so that’s a big deal.
The thing about living in China though is that things like Broadway musicals can take a long time to appear. Even cast recording. So, although I could listen to Anastasia on repeat for weeks on end, Jaime couldn’t.
Fast forward to now.
Remember how I mentioned that I’m a terrible pen pal? It dawned on me that since she and I spoke about that musical I hadn’t asked if she had been able to find it. When Jaime told me how she accesses music last Friday I inundated her with my go-to list.
Anastasia was first, of course. But I also recommended things like Something Rotten, First Date, Fun Home and Waitress. Oh, and Mean Girls and War Paint of course, we’re sisters.
This rambling has been to say that I’m so grateful to musical theater and the availability of cast recordings. As a Midwesterner born, bred and still living, I don’t get to New York very often. I can count on one hand and one finger the number of Broadway shows I’ve seen in New York City. And I can count on no hands how many shows I’ve seen with the entire original cast.
But that’s okay. I very rarely feel slighted by the short lifespan of original casts. With the exception of Nathan Lane in pretty much anything and, obviously, Daveed Diggs in Hamilton.(Sorry Lin)
Cast recordings are a way for people anywhere in the world to share the gift of musical theater.
Despite the fact that my sister and I live, literally, on opposite ends of the earth, we are still able to hear the same voices, close our eyes and imagine sitting together at a show. Suddenly the world is a little smaller, the music is a little fuller and I’m that young girl again waltzing around my family’s living room to the tune of “Once Upon a December” on a cassette tape.