Edna Ferber has been proven to a wonderful source of inspiration for grandiose and sweeping musicals. 1927's Show Boat was based on her 1926 novel Showboat. Recently, her novel Giant was put to music by Michael John LaChiusa (See What I Wanna See, First Lasy Suite, The Wild Party). The show features a book by Sybille Pearson, Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa, and luxuriant orchestrations by Bruce Coughlin with additional orchestrations by Larry Hochman. GIANT had its New York City premiere in a production that was co-produced by The Public Theater and Dallas Theater Center last fall. The acclaimed musical's rousing and extravagantly epic score has been resplendently captured by Ghostlight Records on its two-disc GIANT (Original Cast Recording) album.
The star across the two discs is Michael John LaChiusa's astounding and soaring score. The rich melodies evoke imagery of Texas' wide-open skies and broad plains. Brilliantly, when staged in New York City, the orchestra was positioned on a loft above the stage, which must have really helped the spirited, swirling, and ambitiously grand score take wing over the audience. Also, for fans of Michael John LaChiusa's other provocative and cerebral works, this score while definitely his most accessible, remains impressively layered and complex as it mixes in differing styles of the varied cultures and musical motifs of Texas in the 1920s-1950s.
Brian D'Arcy James (NBC's SMASH, Shrek The Musical, White Christimas) is excellent as Jordan "Bick" Benedict, the show's valiant and strapping protagonist. His vocals are imbued with masculinity and strength. Standout numbers include the ardently mercurial "Did Spring Come to Texas?," "Our Mornings/That Thing," and the romantic "Heartbreak Country."
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Leslie Lynnton Benedict, the female lead, is sung by Kate Baldwin (2009 Revival of Finian's Rainbow). Her gorgeous and full voice glides over the vibrant score. Her rendition of "A Stranger" is an instant favorite. She also gives gripping and exquisite performances on "Your Texas," "Topsy Turvy," and "Midnight Blues."
PJ Griffith sings "Private Property," "Outside Your Window," and "When to Bluff." Michele Pawk has a superb rendition of "No Time For Surprises." Full company numbers include "Aurelia Dolores," "Look Back/Look Ahead," "My Texas," "Act One Finale," "Un Béso, Béso!," and "Auerlia Dolores Reprise/Act Two Finale."