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Masterworks Broadway have seem to have been a bit off-colour of late. They seem to be concentrating on releasing re-releases of old recordings, and whilst some are worthy, some of their decisions I’ve found questionable. However, their latest release, a new musical recording, is certainly a welcome addition to their catalogue - the world premier recording of Polkadots - The Cool Kids Musical - inspired by the true events of the Civil Rights pioneers Ruby Bridges and The Little Rock Nine.
The World Premiere Recording features Shanice Williams (Dorothy in NBC's The Wiz Live!), recording artist Alex Newell (Glee), Lilli Cooper (The SpongeBob Musical), Alysha Deslorieux (Hamilton), John Arthur Greene (American Idol Season 15), Katie Thompson (Giant), Julia Knitel (Beautiful), Brittney Johnson (Motown), Gerard Canonico (Dear Evan Hansen), Sara King (Hair) and Talia Thiesfield (Veep).
Polkadots follows 8-year-old Lily Polkadot who just moved to the “Squares Only” small town of Rockaway. As the first Polkadot in an all Square school, Lily faces an almost impossible task of gaining acceptance from her peers. From daily bullying, to segregated drinking fountains, Lily’s quest seems hopeless until she meets Sky, a shy Square boy whose curiosity for her unique polkadot skin blooms into an unexpected pal-ship. Polkadots serves as a colourful history lesson for children, reminding them that our differences make us awesome, not outcasts.
After just one AEA-29 hour reading in August 2015, Polkadots has had two successful developmental runs at Carnegie Mellon University and The Ivoryton Playhouse, where it was awarded the Bully Free Communities Spotlight Award. The new musical is now being licensed regionally and is searching for a theatre to host its New York City bow. Polkadots was conceived by Douglas Lyons, who also wrote lyrics and co-composed music with Greg Borowsky and features a book by Melvin Tunstall, III. The creative team also includes Madeline Smith (Music Supervisor), Ted Arthur (Musical Director), Ethan D. Pakchar (Orchestration) and Salina Giardino (Illustration).
Considering the issues that the US seems to have in certain areas with ‘inclusion’ this is quite a timely release. And this isn’t just a statement musical, it’s a score with great heart and not considerable musical appeal. The talent involved here is great - headed up by Williams hot off of her success in The Wiz last Christmas (2015). It has many great numbers, and I see this show appealing to young and old alike. I loved ‘Beautiful’ (probably the most memorable track on the album) which reminded me of the great Seussical musical, and ‘Sticks and Stones’ with its infectious beat, and meaningful lyrics. ‘Cool Kid’ is another wow moment and a really fun song. It’s an album I listened to several times, and heard new things every time. It’s tuneful, has a huge heart, and a very enjoyable listen, accompanied with a nice booklet with full lyrics and synopsis.
What’s not to like?