Music and Lyrics: Joe Iconis
Cast albums are increasingly important for new musicals although, with no book or visuals to shape the story, it is a strange experience listening to the score of a production you have never seen. For shows like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen selling the songs to an audience in advance has proven a boon to ticket sales when they finally crossed the Atlantic, and while Broadway Bounty Hunter wasn’t rapturously received on its debut in 2019, divorced from its material staging, the original cast album has a fun soul and Motown feel.
Built entirely around the actor Annie Golden who plays a character of the same name, Joe Iconis’ musical is a tribute to the B-movies and actors of the 1970s with a Broadway twist. The concept of the bounty hunter is a strange one to UK ears, hired law enforcement professionals who work independently to track down flighty criminals and deliver them to justice. Aside from dubious rom coms with Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston and Katherine Heigl, this may be a first for musical theatre.
It is difficult to derive the plot from this cast recording, however – and reviews suggest audiences may have had the same issue in the theatre – as fading actor Annie is drawn into joining Shiro Jin who runs the bounty hunter agency, commissioned to avenge the death of a chorus boy hooked on drugs by evil producer Charlie Silver. In return for a comeback part, Annie is partnered with loner Lazarus to capture Silver – now running a South American brothel in the name of Mac Roundtree.
The songs themselves are pretty enjoyable, drawing on an upbeat disco charm that is still relatively unusual in musical theatre scores unless they are specifically honouring bands from the era like Dreamgirls and, to some degree, Hairspray. With previous credits including the joyous Marilyn Monroe musical in Smash and Be More Chill, composer and lyricist Iconis embraces the style fairly consistently producing rousing numbers including Woman of a Certain Age which opens and closes the show and Master Shiro’s Bounty Hunters which is a cheeky Charlie’s Angels-like theme tune.
Broadway Bounty Hunter doesn’t take itself too seriously and much of its musical style is deliberately tongue-in-cheek, almost an affectionate spoof with kung-fu sound effects. Mac Roundtree is described as ‘”a real bad mother” when Annie is given her first job, while the bounty hunter’s mantra in Shiro’s Proposition is ‘one part animal instinct, one part primal rage, one part valiant courage and the wisdom that comes with age’ sung in a soulful chant. It is bonkers and hard to follow just using the score but, heard one by one, the songs themselves have a toe-tapping appeal.
Golden’s voice has an unusual quality, sometimes a little reedy or squeaky in comparison to the deeper, richer tones of her co-stars and the listener is never quite convinced by Annie’s transformation from theatre washout to badass heroine – although when someone has created an entire musical just for you, the quality of performance is relatively unimportant.
Brad Oscar has the best of it as the evil Mac Roundtree which even as pure audio feels like a scene-chewing uber-villain. His return to New York is a real highlight and you can only wonder at the visuals accompanying Return of Roundtree. Alan H. Green’s macho Lazarus is also a wonderful vocalist, bringing a creamy texture to Feelings and Ain’t No Thing.
Iconis’ musical may struggle to secure a UK transfer, but Broadway Bounty Hunter could sit happily in the programme at any number of fringe venues. Without the book or at least a clearer description of the plot to explain how the songs fit together, the CD can feel a little random, but taken song-by-song there is much to enjoy in the playful musical choices and the affectionate homage to 70s film.
Broadway Bounty Hunter Original Cast Album is available from Ghostlight Records now