Album Review: Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed (Original Broadway Cast)


“Sons and daughters of the long dark night
Our time has come to glow in the light”

Bit of a cheeky one this as this 8-track sampler of Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed was recorded live for Tony voters but hey, why should they get all the fun, especially now that the decision was made to close the show allegedly in the light of Audra McDonald’s pregnancy making it a less saleable prospect.

The show takes a little unpicking – a musical with a 1921 score by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle and a contemporary libretto by George C. Wolfe, based on the original book of the musical revue Shuffle Along, by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles. The story thus focuses on the challenges of mounting the original production of Shuffle Along and its effect on Broadway and race relations.

Not much of the story comes through on the sampler but what you do get is an undeniable sense of the joie de vivre at the heart of the show – full company numbers like ‘Broadway Blues’, the Brian Stokes Mitchell-led ‘Swing Along’ and ‘Struttin’’ explode with fun, Adrienne Warren’s ‘I’m Just Simply Full of Jazz’ is spunky, Billy Porter’s ‘Low Down Blues’ is simply astonishing and the incomparable Audra McDonald sounding like she’s having the time of her life in ‘Shuffle Along’.

McDonald’s duet with Brandon Victor Dixon on ‘You’re Lucky to Me’ is another delight in all its scatting glory and all the way through this collection, the sound of the many choreographed moments add to the showbiz sparkle that makes me very sad I won’t get to see the show. So I’m glad that I got to hear this morsel of it, no matter how illicit it may be.

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