The original cast album of the all-Canadian production of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz: The Musical was named one of the Top 10 Musical Theatre Cast Recordings of 2016 by LondonTheatre.co.uk. and as soon as this sparkling overture starts out it is easy to see why. There is a wonderful use of sax, violins and oboe’s. Alan Menken and David Spencer have been working on this musical since 1987 in Philadelphia. It may have taken 28 years to get this score to perfection but in 2015 in Quebec in 2015, Menken and Spencer succeeded. Spencer and Menken collaborated on the Off-Broadway musical Weird Romance. This CD is the original cast recording of that production.
The show is based on Mordecai Richler’s 1959 novel, which was later made into a film starring Richard Dreyfuss in 1974.
Duddy Kravitz’s taxi driver father Max (George Masswohl) narrates with “The Man Your Going To Be.” Duddy (Ken James Stewart ) is a 19 year old ambitious, brash Jewish boy who has grown up poor in Montreal, Canada. and his rich uncle Benjy (Victor A. Young) are very proud of Duddy’s older brother Lenny, whom Benjy is putting through medical school. Only his grandfather (Howard Jerome) shows the motherless Duddy any attention. Daddy speaks of his dreams in Leaving St. Urbain Street
Duddy gets a summer job as a waiter at a Jewish resort in the mountains. He starts a serious relationship with another hotel employee, French-Canadian Yvette (Marie-Pierre de Brienne). One day, she takes him on a picnic beside a lake and sings one of the best songs from this score, the stunningly lyrical How Could I Not. Duddy is stunned by the beauty of the setting, and his ambition crystallizes: taking to heart his grandfather Zeyta’s maxim that “a man without land is nobody”, he decides he will buy all the property around the lake and develop it. Because the current owners might not want to sell to a Jew, he gets Yvette to front for him. This comes vividly across in the catching I’m Gonna Buy This Lake.
Duddy sets out to raise the money he needs and starts a film company. The character song Art and Commerce a duet done by Duddy and Peter John Fryer, the director (KristianTruelsen). This song is truly hilarious as well is What A Liar, sung by Mr Cohen (Sam Rosenthal) who Duddy met at the resort.
When a piece of land comes up for sale, Duddy does not have enough money. He begs his father to get him an appointment with his friend Dingleman (Michael Rudder), “the Boy Wonder”, a rich, successful businessman-cum-gangster who had equally humble beginnings. Dingleman turns down his request for a loan but later invites him to discuss his scheme on a train to New York. It turns out that Dingleman just wants a drug mule to unknowingly take the risk of smuggling heroin.
On the train, Duddy meets good-natured Virgil (David Coomber) and offers to buy his pinball machines, which are illegal in the United States. When Virgil shows up, Duddy does not have enough money to pay him, so Duddy hires Virgil as a truck driver, even though he has epilepsy. The songs I Like Trains, and Turn It Around 1,2, and 3 shows the friendship forged by these three. Tragedy strikes when Virgil has a seizure while driving and crashes; he is left permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Duddy is distraught and guilt-ridden. Blaming Duddy, Yvette sings Don’t Let Him Worry You, and leaves him to care for Virgil.
Duddy becomes alarmed when Dingleman finds out about his lake. When the last piece of property Duddy needs comes on the market, Dingleman bids for it, but Duddy refuses. Undeterred, Duddy proudly takes Max, Lenny and his grandfather to see his property, Duddy’s grandfather, refuses to pick out a plot for his farm; Yvette has told him what Duddy did to get it. Duddy tries to make amend with Virgil and Yvette with Yvette singing the lilting Welcome Home.
Ken James Stewart is an expressive Duddy and Marie–Pierre de Brienne has an exquisite yearning that gives Yvette a flawless vocal performance. The cast sings beautifully allowing Spencer’s lyrics to permeate. Menken’s music is a musical treat that covers various styles, but in the end makes you feel at home.