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Frankie! The Musical
Studio Cast Recording


Music: Elise Marra
Lyrics & Book: Elise Marra
Performed by: Caitlin Kinnunen, Delphi Borich, Jason Gotay, Autumn Hulbert, Allie Trimm and Jason SweetTooth Williams
Label: Broadway Records
RRP: £12.99
Release Date: 29 May 2020

Broadway Records have long had a reputation for releasing new recordings of new musicals. They are just about on their own here, and are certainly the most active, in doing this, and also in producing an excellent physical product as well as the now-normal digital releases.

Inspired by real life triumphs, Frankie! The Musical is the heartening story of a teen lesbian struggling with her own coming of age, while she is forced to stand in for her mentally checked-out mother. When a mysterious illness strikes Frankie, it impels the revival of her dreams. Tony Nominee Caitlin Kinnunen (The Prom, Bridges of Madison County) appears in the title role of Frankie on this album, billed as the Cast Concept Album, featuring music and lyrics by teen writer Elise Marra. Also appearing on this recording are Jason Gotay (Evita), Jason SweetTooth Williams (Be More Chill), Autumn Hurlbert (Legally Blonde), Allie Trimm (13), Delphi Borich (Cinderella) and Grammy-winning percussionist Jacquelene Acevedo (David Byrne’s American Utopia).

I was surprised not to have heard of the composer - I’m usually pretty up on these things. Elise Marra is a 16-year-old writer/composer from Michigan who plays multiple instruments. Elise (aka J.E. Bean) published two fictional novels by age 12 and completed her first musical at age 13. Since she has completed six original musicals and five original plays, including several live productions in Michigan. Elise was inspired to write Frankie! The Musical almost two years ago. When not writing, she can be found performing regional theater in Michigan, New York, and South Carolina. So, pretty impressive already, and I think we’ll hear more.

There’s no doubting there’s real talent on show on this recording, both from the composer, but also from the cast assembled. I really enjoyed listening to Kinnunen as the title character, and with a Tony nomination under her belt already, it’s clear she’s going to go on to more great things. I think Marra shows great promise as a musical theatre composer too. This isn’t a finished work - there is a lot of repetition that doesn’t always work (the number 'I’ll Get Mad' is an example of one that needs a rework and some variety adding), and the harmonies and progressions are basic at times. But there are also moments of brilliance such as ‘Home Tonight’ and 'Hey Now', with its splendid vocal arrangements.

Another worthy release from Broadway Records, featuring work from someone I’m sure we’ll hear more of.


Ian Gude

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