Audra McDonald

110 in the Shade [2007 Broadway Revival Cast]

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At the start of his liner notes to this 2007 Broadway revival cast recording of the 1963 musical 110 in the Shade, theater critic Peter Filichia addresses the main drawback of cast albums, that you can't see the actual production, only listen to "a CD of mostly songs, with connective dialogue." Ironically, that actually may be an advantage in this case, however. The show is based on N. Richard Nash's 1954 Broadway play The Rainmaker, which, as its title suggests, is about Starbuck, a conman who comes to a small Texas town in the 1930s that is suffering from a drought and promises to bring rain. While he's there, he takes the time to romance a local spinster named Lizzie. When Nash came to adapt his play into the musical book to accompany Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's songs, a decision was made to tilt the story a bit more toward the spinster, hence the change in title. But it was still an ensemble work. 110 in the Shade was only a modest success on Broadway in 1963-1964, running 330 performances in a season in which it was overshadowed by Hello, Dolly! and Funny Girl. None of its songs became popular outside the theater, and it was not revived on Broadway for more than 43 years. When it was, the reason was that four-time Tony-winning actress/singer Audra McDonald, one of Broadway's major stars, agreed to play Lizzie. The good news is that McDonald is outstanding in anything she does, and she is certainly outstanding in 110 in the Shade. The bad news is that the show was not written as a star vehicle for Lizzie; if anything, Starbuck remains the major role. (In fact, the revival restores "Evenin' Star," a second-act opening number for Starbuck that was cut before the 1963 opening.) Also, Lizzie is meant to be a plain, aging woman who spends most of the evening being humiliated and only at the end comes to see herself as beautiful and empowered. It is not the part for an actress whom the audience views as a gorgeous star from the moment she steps on-stage. Despite, and in part because, of her brilliance, McDonald is essentially miscast. The Roundabout Theatre Company, which staged the revival, accentuated the problem by casting the show with young, unknown talents who could not hold the stage in McDonald's presence. (The sole exception was stage veteran John Cullum, who played Lizzie's father, a minor role.) But this problem is lessened on the cast album. It is much easier to pay attention to Steve Kazee as Starbuck sing his second-act showcase number, "Melisande," without having McDonald to look at; it turns out he's got a good voice. Still, the real reason to listen to this album is to hear McDonald sing "Love, Don't Turn Away," "Raunchy," "Old Maid," and "Simple Little Things." As Jones-Schmidt scores go, this one doesn't rank with The Fantasticks or even I Do! I Do! But it deserved a major revival earlier than this, and it still deserves a more balanced one.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
110 in the Shade, musical
1 3:43
2 3:27
3 3:20
4 2:32
5 2:14
feat: Steve Kazee
feat: Steve Kazee
8 0:29
9 3:50
10 3:59
11 1:44
12 3:26
feat: Steve Kazee
14 2:15
15 1:59
feat: Steve Kazee
17 3:24
18 3:17
19 3:23
20 3:21
21 1:51
blue highlight denotes track pick