After closing in the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway in October of 2015, the creative team and cast members of Amazing Grace released their compelling and gorgeous album last month. Within its 22 songs, this album orchestrates listeners through the inspirational story on how the song, “Amazing Grace”, was developed by the great John Newton. In the legendary shoes of this brilliant abolitionist stands Josh Young, a Tony nominated tenor with a voice powerful enough to tug on the heartstrings of audiences across the globe. In songs like, “Truly Alive”, “Testimony”, “I Will Remember”, and “Nothing There to Love”, Young’s light-hearted and unshaken voice emphasizes his character’s struggles to overcome his slave-owning father’s beliefs and become a true abolitionist and composer in Britain. Complementing his persona, is Mary Catlett (portrayed by the superb soprano Erin Mackey), who worked with Newton on his music and fell in love with him. In the songs, “Someone Who Hears”, “Tell Me Why”, and “I Still Believe”, Mackey’s smooth and powerful voice echoes a strong-willed woman trying desperately to give Newton the encouragement he needs to be successful in his affairs. When these two voices are in sync, it makes you feel a harmonic sense of peace throughout your entire body as the emotional lyrics, “And I can face it all if you will walk with me” express a true, intimate connection between people that have fallen in love.
As always, the ensemble of any production is what keeps the energy and emotions flowing. Newton’s father, portrayed by Tom Hewitt, provides a booming Baritone sound that strikes fear in the eyes of his slaves and angers his son. Composer Christopher Smith along with music director, Joseph Church, music coordinator, Michael Keller, and orchestrations master, Kenny Seymour worked tirelessly to create power and harmony in every bar of music chorused remarkably by this extraordinary ensemble. The song entitled, “We Are Determined”, performed by this incredible cast tells a sincere and heartbreaking story about the slaves in Britain wanting“To break the chains [their] brothers must bear/[And that] One day their voices will roar like the sea/ When they breathe free”. With their 6 part harmonies flowing like the breeze; with their tears audible like a crying infant, and with the sound of their unbreaking spirits; this ensemble melts the hearts of its listeners.
Overall, the new album, Amazing Grace exhibits songs full of colorful harmonies, structured bar by bar to deliver the inspiring story of John Newton. Listeners can detect emotions in a wide range of moods that will echo in their ears for hours beyond listening. Despite the fact that strangers to this musical may not comprehend every song, its music is enough to brighten up the day and the many days afterward.
Musical Theatre I Amazing Grace CD Company