Spotlight on LGBTQ+ Art: Ken Howard’s ON THE BOULEVARD
While yet to be performed on stage, Ken Howard’s musical On the Boulevard already has its first original cast recording. Howard, the great-nephew of 1920s Broadway star Esther Howard, began this labor of love in 2015 in the boom of superhero films as a social critique and commentary on West Hollywood’s fixation social status, notably regarding gay men and their physiques. With these ideas in play, Howard took inspiration from the witty works of George Bernard Shaw and adapted the ideas into a modern context. In “yet-another retelling of the transformative Cinderella story”, Howard’s tale blends golden era Broadway musicals with modern cultural context and gives a new, fresh story that could prove to be a transformative and important milestone in the modern musical landscape if given its chance.
The 29 track concept album brings to life Howard’s vision, giving the characters voices and the concept for the stage musical real flesh. With a host of the who’s who of the musical world and some first time players, Howard and friends put together a fully fleshed out concept for what the musical could become. With the talented arrangers and composers, incredible musicians, and fantastic cast, the album has all the hallmarks of the “original cast recording” style soundtracks of all the staples. Recorded at Temple Base Studios in Hollywood, On the Boulevard is a must listen for fans of musical theater.
With Godspell on the short list for this film and stage fan’s “best musicals of all-time” list, it’s easy to hear an influence from both the classic era Broadway smashes of Gershwin and the like and the rich catalog of hippie era musicals like Godspell and Hair. While the recordings are sometime a bit more bare bones than a full cast recording for one of these classics of either era may be, this album is a fantastic one when considering it’s the musical equivalent of a filmmaker’s “proof of concept” film. you’d expect a full presentation to fill out the musical interludes and build the final product a bit more, yet there is zero doubt that this version of the album will be on repeat for this musical junkie and many others, as there is an endearing quality about the rawer and more stripped down moments of the recording, as well.
More than anything else, this album should serve to the stage and film producers out there as an invitation to reach out to Howard and get this made. There is so much life and potential in this project that this recording only just begins to present.
This may not be for everyone, but it has the potential to be a pretty huge hit for the right audience. Then again, there is one thing everyone can agree on… “everybody hates leg day”!