Album Review: Thirteen Stories Down – The Songs of Jonathan Reid Gealt (2011)

“If you wanted me to, I’d take a trip to the sticks, and tie her up in the back of a van”

As you can see from the release date, Thirteen Stories Down – The Songs of Jonathan Reid Gealt isn’t a particularly new album but it is one that I’ve had waiting on my ‘to listen’ list for a long time. Produced by Sh-K-Boom, Gealt is a New York composer who has been bubbling under for a while now and as is the way of these things, opted to put out his debut album by calling some of his nearest and dearest Broadway pals to showcase his work.

And on this evidence it’s quite the body of work. Gealt feels like a natural song-writer, connecting emotion effortlessly to his music which puts him in good stead for the world of musical theatre and there are some compelling moments here. Adam Chanler-Berat’s ‘I Won’t Have to Anymore’ is a gorgeously moving tale of a young gay lad escaping an abusive home, Bridie Carroll’s ‘Expectations of a Man’ ought to be a lesbian anthem by now and Lauren Kennedy’s wry ‘Alex…You’re Fine!’ works well.
It also seems that he’s as much a fan of a power ballad as I am and with the likes of Caissie Levy (I Am Yours), Natalie Weiss (Quiet) and Zak Resnick (September of ’92) onboard, there’s a sense of real class that emerges from the slow builds, concentrated emotions and big belts on display. And getting a pre-Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Tituss Burgess was canny indeed, his irrepressible character shining through on fun duet ‘My Best Friend’ with Quentin Earl Darrington.

But what really sells Thirteen Stories Down for me is Gealt’s queer sensibility, something that is still all too rarely seen (ironically) in the world of musical theatre at large. And so with the already–mentioned tracks and two further duets – the sad gays of ‘Stay/I’ll Never Go’ (Adam Armstrong & Gealt himself) and the horny gays of ‘Wanting’ (Matt Doyle & Darius de Haas) – there’s a deepening of the exploration of the rich emotion of queer lives in MT which is something I will always salute.

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