Can't talk about the show; haven't seen it, but I sure want to, now that I've heard this heartwarming, clever, melodic, intelligent score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Before this show, I'd never heard of these two writers, but on the strength of this score, I think we'll be hearing a lot of them in the decades to come. I hope so, because their infectious score (as catchy as pinkeye)is one of the best I've heard this century.
Imagine: catchy melodies with intelligent, occasionally wise, and often funny lyrics sitting comfortably on the notes, not squished in regardless of where the music is going, and with actual rhymes, not the kind of near-rhymes that seem to be good enough for some writers these days. Not these guys. Lyric structure means something to them, with lines held together with alliteration ("When you're a wimp you get wise to the ways of the wood"), clever and appropriate lyric changes from verse to verse ("The hawks swoop and scoop you up as their prey" becomes "We swoop and scoop them up as they pray"), and some lines that just bring joy to the ear--what kid hasn't at some point wished it was "almost nearly getting close to counting down to Christmas"?
If there are musical antecedents to the score, they're in echoes of "Falsettos," and "Grey Gardens," and "Avenue Q," and I never realized how much Liz Callaway (Mother on the recording, but not in the show this year) sounds like Stephanie D'Abruzzo. And of course, there are musical echoes of Sondheim. None of this is bad, and none of it detracts one iota from this score, which, supported by Larry Blank's terrific orchestrations, keeps the time period in mind, and if it veers from a 1939 or 1940 vibe, it's only to nod to 1960's Broadway.
Oh--and the kid, Clarke Hallum, is just amazing. Whoever else plays Ralphie will have a really hard act to follow.
I triple dog dare you to not love this score.