Newline Records 2009
Featuring the voice of Neil Patrick Harris
Featuring the music and lyrics of Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael Jelenic, and James Tucker
Full disclosure: Most of you should know that I have a weakness for animation and cartoons as well as for musicals. Now you know. This episode and its soundtrack combine both in the best Josh Whedon style. He wasn’t involved but his influence can be strongly felt, and Neil Patrick Harris of Dr Horrible fame is prominently featured, and that makes this just delicious.
Reviews are something new for me and for Radio Casbah so this will be a continuing and evolving artistic exercise in honest writing and musical reviews. Bear with me as we grow together.
But for the rare spoken dialogue, this would be considered an opera, but all of the action on the soundtrack and most of the small screen happens as a musical continuation during the entire episode. The soundtrack or the episode are not by any means high art, but they are very, very good, perhaps a B or a B+, at least, if we are scaling it with a standard grading system. The very best of Broadway does come to mind watching and listening to this in pieces and on repeat. The music is composed by Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis, and Kristopher Carter (prominent composers of several animated series) and the lyrics are written by Michael Jelenic and James Tucker (producers of this episode).
This is my first foray into this chapter of the television Batman as the Brave And The Bold, and it is decidedly untraditional, a little more irreverent, and for an audience without any preconceived notions of what superhero animated TV series should be, but if you can open your mind and appreciate your Batman and his cast of hangers-on from a newer and fresher perspective, you will appreciate this and probably love it. If you can’t you are missing out on what may be a future Classic. Since I am not familiar with most of the characters, I won’t dwell on any fine details of the characterizations, but I will tell you that this episode features the requisite baddies Black Manta and Gorilla Grodd as well as the requisite goodies Green Arrow, Aquaman, and Black Canary (whose voice is provided by Grey Delisle I note Delisle because I would certainly like to see and here more of her musical talents in other media ventures. She;s also a favorite of the Music Meister and the Green Hornet, but her charms are seemingly lost on the chaste Batman.
The first highlight is “I’m The Music Meister,” which features all of the secondary characters under the rich vocal spell of the Music Meister himself where he commands the cast, whether good or bad, and whether willing or not, to do his bidding. For a time, they do. And they do it by being compelled to break out into song as musical zombies. This probably isn’t revolutionary in the Musical genre, but, I like the idea of a chorus here to introduce the plot and to introduce the characters.
Also of note is “Drives Us Bats,” a duet chorus between the Music Meister and a cacophony of baddies in striped suits as the Meister lets loose on all of the reasons why he hates the upstart Batman. And so he conducts an army of baddies and a general public the world over to help him take over the world.
And without a love theme in site, “If Only,” serves as quite a romantic and adversarial interlude between Black Canary and the Meister. There is even a reprise duet between Black Canary and Green Hornet at the end after Batman and the good guys help defeat the Music Meister. If your heart is warm and music can carry you to legendary parts unknown with the aid of a vivid imagination, then you will appreciate this. Who among us doesn’t appreciate the occasional sentimental? Even through all of the superficial cynicism of the Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs, there is a blinding hopeful and sentimental romanticism. We are all susceptible. At least I always have been from a very young age, curled up on the floor for my Saturday morning cartoon ritual.
Listening to this a half-dozen times or so, it starts to grow and expand into a warmth that can only be compared to The Buffy Musical Episode or to Dr. Horrible. This seems no different, but some may not have the patience. That would be unfortunate, because certain classics take a little time to reveal themselves. Even Herman Melville didn’t gain worldwide fame until after death. Let’s not wait that long for this.
Since this reviewing thing is a work in progress, I would welcome your comments and suggestions for improvement since I let this one get away from me and it became more of a stream of consciousness review, whether that be good or bad is open for interpretation.