I've made no secret of my undying affection for the work of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, easily the most talented and versatile musical-theater writing team that we currently have. Which is why I was so disappointed in their most recent show, The Glorious Ones. (Read my review here.) I found the piece unfocused and uninvolving in performance.
Flaherty and Ahrens seem to produce much better shows when they have a separate collaborator working on the libretto, such as Terrence McNally, who helped make Ragtime and A Man of No Importance the superior shows that they are. When they try to craft the book on their own, well, sometimes we get Once on This Island (yay!), but other times we get Seussical (not so yay).
But I did genuinely enjoy the score to The Glorious Ones, and was greatly looking forward to the release of The Glorious Ones CD, which fortunately does not disappoint. The show is much more emotionally engaging on CD, without the distraction of director Graciela Danielle's often wearisome stage business. Stephen Flaherty once again proves himself a master of evocative and often intricate melody lines. Lynn Ahrens' lyrics work better when they're meant to be poignant that when they're trying to be funny. Both the vulgarity and the jocularity, although certainly true to the the source material, come off forced and unconvincing. But Flaherty and Ahrens demonstrate in this score two of their greatest strengths: the rousing opening number ("The Glorious Ones") and the stirring 11 o'clock anthem ("I Was Here"). Both will doubtless be in regular rotation on my iPod.
One flaw from the show that remains on CD is the lack of distinct characterizations, particularly those of the young lovers, Isabella and Francesco. The numbers for these characters remain dull and indistinct. But overall, this is a strong and solid score, and an entertaining CD. Of course, anything new from Flaherty and Ahrens is a reason to celebrate. Let's hope that they're planning, nay writing, their next show even as we "speak."