Entertainment

Giant - Original Cast Recording

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Wednesday May 29, 2013
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The film version of "Giant" (1956) was an epic, cinematic classic featuring some of the best performances from the storied careers of Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean and Sal Mineo. The expansive tale of the Benedict family, based on the novel by Edna Ferber, has now been musicalized by composer Michael John LaChiusa ("Hello Again," "See What I Want to See," and most recently, "The Queen of the Mist") and librettist Sybille Pearson, and the "Giant" soundtrack is now available from Ghostlight Records.

Brian D’Arcy James ("Shrek") now assumes the cowboy hat worn by Hudson. As Jordan "Bick" Benedict, James takes us through two generations of life on Reata, his wide-ranging ranch in the heartland of Texas. With Benedict as our guide, we experience his meeting the city-girl, Leslie (Kate Baldwin, in the Taylor role), and his competition for both her affection and the ownership of Reata with Jett Rink (P.J. Griffith). "Bick" must also prove himself to his sister, Luz (Michelle Pawk), whose old-fashioned views of the west do not include the welcoming of a wife for her brother.

Act one centers on the adults in 1925, while act two focuses on the Benedict children and their peers. The union of Benedict and Leslie begets the courteous and conservative Jordy Jr. (Bobby Steggert) and the wild-child, Lil Luz (Mackenzie Mauzy). As a young adult, Jordy falls in love with a young Mexican girl (Natalie Cortez), forcing his parents to come to terms with the growing presence of Mexican immigrants in their state, causing the older characters to question their prejudice.

LaChiusa’s score accurately supports the massive scope of the story, effectively combining sung-through sections with recitative and self-contained songs. James has established himself as a leading man on the stage, with a recognizable voice that exudes authority. Baldwin’s sweet sound blends well with James’ (especially on the romantic "Topsy Turvy" and the culminating "The Desert") and Pawk’s brassiness is welcomed on "No Time For Surprises." Other standout performances come from Miguel Cervantes as Angel, who gives an inspired rendition on "Jump," and Griffith and Mauzy on their upbeat duet, "When to Bluff."

"Giant" is now available for licensing, but it should only be attempted by larger, well-funded organizations that can do justice to the scale of the tale.

"Giant (Original Cast Recording)"
Michael John LaChiusa / Brian D’Arcy James / Kate Baldwin
CD and digital formats
Ghostlight Records

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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