Taboo, the stage musical about the London club scene of the early '80s and the rise of singer Boy George of the band Culture Club, for which Boy George wrote the songs, ran 15 months in the West End, from January 2002 to April 2003. During the run, the show was revised, and Boy George stepped in, playing the part of Leigh Bowery, a friend of his (another actor played the young Boy George). The Broadway production, a flop that ran only 100 performances between November 13, 2003, and February 8, 2004, was a further-revised version with a new libretto by New York playwright Charles Busch. As part of the revisions, four songs that appeared on the original London cast album -- "Shelter," "Touched By the Hand of Cool," "Independent Woman," and "Pie in the Sky" -- are missing from the original Broadway cast album, which, however, adds four others -- "Dress to Kill," "Sexual Confusion," "The Fame Game," and "Come On In from the Outside," along with a medley of the Culture Club hits "Church of the Poison Mind" and "Karma Chameleon." (Culture Club's first hit, "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me," was always part of the score.) When the show reached New York, critics complained that Busch's book had too many characters whose plot lines were difficult to follow. While this is not a problem on the cast album, which gives few hints of the plot (there is no summary included), it does come across in the songs, which are sung by various people and in various styles. The music veers abruptly from traditional show music to rock, folk, pop, disco, and reggae. (Although Boy George is credited prominently for "music and lyrics," there are credits in smaller print for Kevan Frost as "co-composer" and for John Themis and Richie Stevens as "music co-writers," whatever that may mean.) The songs are a combination of flamboyant declarations of transvestitism and homosexuality on the one hand and sensitivity and loneliness on the other. Not infrequently, the score suggests The Rocky Horror Show, but without the humor. The cast members, particularly Raúl Esparza and Euan Morton (who plays the young Boy George), do their best with the material, but it is so uneven and eclectic that, with the big cast, the album often sounds more like a sampler drawn from many different shows than the recording of a single one.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann