Book: Itamar Moses
Music and lyrics: Michael Friedman
Reviewer: John Roberts
Based on Jonathan Lethem’s cult novel of the same name, The Fortress of Solitude is a fresh and vibrant mix of musical styles and modern beats by the composer of rock musical Bloody Bloody Angry Jackson, blending together sounds of the past with more recent musical theatre styles to bring a big sounding and highly successful cast recording.
Telling the story of two teenage friends; Dylan and Mingus – one white and one black as they grow older and together through the ever changing landscape of the 70s, 80s and 90s – The Fortress of Solitude weaves a tale of race, a love of superheroes, betrayal and what really happens when you believe you can fly.
Originally premiering at the Dallas Theater Centre before transferring to The Public theatre in New York, Friedman’s musical truly deserves all the critical praise that was lavished upon it – not only thanks to a string creative team but also due to the energetic and heartfelt vocal performances from its cast in particular Kyle Beltran as Mingus and Adam Chanler-Berat as Dylan.
Whether it be Superman/Sidekick and its bluesy/soul undercurrent, which wouldn’t feel out of place in big budget musicals such as Memphis or the strong multi-layered and soul-searching This Little World and it’s uncanny familiarity that draws you straight into its powerful storytelling Michael Friedman finds the perfect balance between new and old which challenges but not alienates the tastes of the more traditional musical theatre lover.
The problem with most cast recordings is not being able to follow the story – where the songs don’t really hang together and provide merely a memento of the production for those who have seen it. Luckily The Fortress of Solitude doesn’t fall into that trap, the tale of friendship and dreams hangs strong throughout and this cast recording from Sh-K-Boom Records captures this in a crystal clear recording.
With theatre’s such as The Public really championing new musical theatre, the future of the form looks set to be bright, challenging and adventurous and as long as companies such as Sh-K-Boom continue to record such productions then those who don’t live in New York have the chance to share in just a little bit of each productions success.