Broadway Records has once again ventured from the tried and true, and has announced the release of a new production from the creative team of Andrew Gerle and Eddie Sugarman. With only a handful of productions under its belt, “Meet John Doe” should be able to branch into the regional theater world with this passionate studio cast recording featuring the talents of Heidi Blickenstaff (“[title of show]”), James Moye (“Million Dollar Quartet”), and Robert Cuccioli (“Jekyll & Hyde”).
Blickenstaff reprises her role from the 2007 Ford’s Theatre production as Ann Mitchell, a reporter who gets her pink slip. It’s 1932, and with the desperate times of the Depression fueling her creativity, her publication of a suicide letter from a fictional “John Doe,” catches the attention of the American people and triggers their empathy toward the struggles of the working man. With the ruse in place, she finds an unemployed baseball player to become the face of “John Doe,” as the mythical character continues to gain popularity. Conflicts arise as the rich owner of Mitchell’s current / former / current again employer wants to use “John” for personal gain, and the baseball player begins to fall for Ann.
The performers on the recording were taken from past productions at both the aforementioned Ford’s Theatre, and the Porchlight Music Theater in Chicago. Broadway veterans John Jellison (“Memphis”) and Andrew Keenan-Bolger (“Newsies”) were also brought in to add clout to the Jonathan Larson Award-winning musical. Gerle’s melodies are Broadway ready, especially when powerhouse Blickenstaff is allowed to belt the daylights out of his songs. Act two has an excessive amount of ballads, and without the script to provide balance to the audio, the disc slows down somewhat, only to rebound with Jellison’s determined “Lighthouses,” and “It’s Not Over / Finale,” once again fronted by Blickenstaff.
Based on the 1941 film by Frank Capra, which featured Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper as Ann and John, Gerle and Sugarman have given “Meet John Doe” an identity that should speak to regional theaters.