Fame Remains in the Wings

No doubt composer/lyricist Ricky Ian Gordon and those of us who admire his songs dream of the day when he gets his proper due. Four of his musicals have appeared so ephemerally that audiences got only vanishing whispers of their charms. He's had no hit. Fortunately, though, there are CDs of those productions. Consider the recent DREAM TRUE, on ps classics, one of the best.

Celebrated singers have regularly, enthusiastically performed Gordon's work. And he has been much praised by critics. Such acclaim equally accumulates for several of today's newly emerging writers of theatre scores: Adam Guettel (THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA), Scott Frankel (GREY GARDENS) Michael John LaChiusa (BERNARDA ALBA) and Jason Robert Brown (THE LAST FIVE YEARS).

All five have been compared to Stephen Sondheim, today's model of sensitivity, taste and variety in musicals. Unlike Sondheim, whose 13 shows include many hits, these names have yet to become widely known by much of the public, despite awards and CDs.

Consistent with other Gordon musicals and those named above, DREAM TRUE does not aim for big production numbers and major flash. Rather it flows gently, with subtle colors offset by splashes of bright rhythms. Sondheim's superlative orchestrator Jonathan Tunick has wonderfully enriched the score using only nine musicians to play it. The result sometimes resembles parts of INTO THE WOODS and MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, projecting, appropriately, vulnerable innocence and youthful enthusiasm.

Tina Landau's book concerns two childhood pals who get separated when their widowed mothers move in different directions. As men, one straight, one gay, the pals explore where they are going with their lives. Much of that time they remain apart but close in their mutual dreams until they try to reunite. That story and how it was rendered got mixed reviews during an off-Broadway run in the late 90s. Then DREAM TRUE resurfaced in a concert version, the basis for this 2004 recording.

Listening to it thus brings many rewards. Let's hope that Ricky Ian Gordon gets the rewards he deserves.
- Gordon Spencer, Footlights, September 2007