CD Review: BULLDOZER: THE BALLAD OF ROBERT MOSES (Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording)

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by Jim Allen on February 22, 2019



It breaks my heart that another poorly made production with no soul or message gets recorded as an Original Cast Recording. Those who may think that Bulldozer is a musical about construction equipment should read the subtitle: The Ballad of Robert Moses, which is indeed about the renowned and controversial “master builder” of mid-20th century New York City. He was, and is, a significant figure in the development of U.S. infrastructure, favoring as he did highways over rapid transit, an approach that led to the growth of American suburbia. The musical looks back on the life and career of Moses, from his days as a young, idealistic city planner, through his meteoric rise building complexes, beaches, and parks, and his inevitable fall from grace when public opinion and his ego both caught up with him.

If you consider Moses, played by American Idol alum Constantine Maroulis (Jekyll & Hyde), brandished nearly unrestrained control mercilessly — a ruthless Jew who denied being Jewish to get ahead — than rock and roll makes a lot of sense. But there’s very little I learned about Moses in the sophomoric, repetitive lyrics. And while the rhythms can be catchy, the pounding beat starts to sound a lot alike after a while. “Fresh Cut Flowers,” at least, has that whimsical 70s’ Stephen Schwartz bounce — you know, a show tune, remember those? Some of the cuts are under 30 seconds; clearly, producers created a list of 25 tracks to make it look like buyers (of all things original cast albums, one presumes) are getting their money’s worth (actual playing time is 57:28).

While his book was reportedly dull in this Off-Broadway production, newcomer Peter Galperin has written a perfectly OK rock music score (with some country and rag thrown in) but the mostly biographical lyrics just don’t stick (and rhyming “grid” and “live” is inexcusable). Supported by a four-piece rock band, the five terrific cast members (Maroulis, Molly Pope, Wayne Wilcox, Ryan Knowles and Kacie Sheik) help give the unremarkable score a life-force, even when the characters don’t have any.

Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses
Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording
Broadway Records
25 tracks | 57:28 | released January 25, 2019
available at Broadway Records, Amazon and iTunes

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