Writer: Hunter Foster and Ryan Scott Oliver
Music and lyrics: Ryan Scott Oliver
Reviewer: Ruth Jepson
Basically a modernised retelling of the Orpheus Greek myth, Jasper in Deadlandtells the story of 16-year-old Jasper, who journeys into the Afterlife to rescue his recently deceased best friend, Agnes, who killed herself by jumping off a cliff (although unlike Orpheus, Jasper completely denies he is in love at all). He is granted access to Deadland, an afterlife made of a hybrid of mythology, religion, and superstition where the dead gradually forget life.As will Jasper, if he can’t get past the seven circles of Deadland, fearsome Cerberus, heavenly Beatrix, mysterious Mr. Lethe, and ultimately himself.
So far, so Tim Burton.
This cast recording features a range of talent, lead actor Matt Doyle as Jasper being the most impressive with a clear, emotive voice perfect for a lost, love questing teenager. The teen angst is strong in songs such as The Killing (a story of the bleakness of human life) and Stroke by Stroke (about fighting your way through life). Also to be listened out for is Sydney Shepherd as Jasper’s guide, Gretchen, who has a cute, peppy style even when speaking of less than peppy subject matter. This is especially good for her first song Tour Song, which wouldn’t be out of place on the Juno soundtrack with its ukulele base.
While the songs are all good, and very easy listening, there are similar in their musicality. Jasper in Deadland feels like it wants be an indie rock soundtrack, something that is rather hit and miss. The first act has few stand out songs, aside from Living Dead, where Shepherd gets to show off her lungs. The second act does improve, with some variation starting to creep in. Listen out especially for Beat and Broken Spirts which is a synthy number about the different tortures visited on Deadland’s residents; and One More Day of Snow, which brings back the ukuleles for an inspirational finale. The sameness of the majority of the tracks is overcome however by resulting in a coherent and somewhat catchy cast recording.
The story is easy to grasp even without the action, which is the mark of a good musical album (although the booklet’s pictures of puppet Cerberus will make you want to track down a live production just to see the spectacle). Jasper in Deadland is a good cast recording which could benefit from further development musically, but shows a lot of talent in its cast and is a fun little love story with indie overtones. Definitely worth a listen.
Available from Sh-K-Boom Records