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As Usual, Words Without Pictures are Less Than Half the Show
Once More with Feeling
words/music: Joss Whedon
The "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Musical
Well, here's the CD we wanted.

And, as usual, the music part of a musical play turns out to be less of an experience than the production as a whole. Big surprise, huh?

That said, the songs are pretty good -- for music written by a non-musician, and the performances are quite good -- for a cast composed mostly of non-singers.

Standouts are Tara (Amber Benson) singing "Under Your Spell", a love-song to Willow, Anya and Xander (Emma Caulfield and Nicholas Brendon) with "I'll Never Tell", their paean to cold feet and Spike (James Marsters -- one of the two real singers in the regular cast) channelling Billy Idol on "Rest in Peace".

Anthony Stewart Head (Giles), the other singer (who played Frank N. Furter in a 1990 London production of "Rocky Horror")does well with his big number, "Standing", meditating on the line between helping and hindering.

"Walk Through the Fire", the big ensemble number, is a big ensemble number. Without the full-cast staging and visuals (the fire trucks were a brilliant touch), though, it's not quite so impactful.

Sarah Michelle Gellar's performance of Buffy's big number, "Something to Sing About" confirms my suspicion that she's a good actress. "Don't quit your day job" applies, to others of the cast as well as to her. The irony of this song, of course, is that it's Spike, the vampire, who drives home the point that the only way to deal with life is just to live it.

Unlike some musical cast/soundtrack albums, this one cuts doesn't throw in bits of dialog to set up songs (which is an aesthetic decision, and may well go different ways for different shows or producers), but also cuts some dialog cues that were actually part of the songs or closely related to them -- especially several bits of Dawn's dialog with Sweet, the dancing demon responsible for the musical curse that has descended on Sunnydale, which i miss -- particularly her quote of Buffy's line from the end of Season Five "The hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it."

Most of the extra material included is Nice But So What -- instrumental suites from two shows and another instrumental -- but it's nice to hear Joss and his wife's demo of "Something to Sing About".

I sort of hoped there might be hidden tracks, maybe ASH's solo acoustic performance of "Behind Blue Eyes", say, but no -- 'twas not to be. Oh well.

If you're a "Buffy" fan, this is solid value for money. But then, if you're a "Buffy" fan, you saw the show when it was on teevee, and you know what's going on -- why people are singing and dancing and catching fire and so on.

Because, as i said, without the visuals (or the memory of the visuals) a lot of this disc, sadly, doesn't stand up very well.

But, since i remember the visuals, and i enjoyed the original boradcast, and because this CD calls it up for me, a solid four stars.

Best line in a song: Willow (Alysson Hannigan, definitely one of the non-singers in the cast) rhymes Spike's "First I'll save her, then I'll kill her" with "I think this line's mostly filler"... (After all, they KNOW that they're in a musical...)

So, if you're a fan of the show, buy this CD. Actually, if you're a real fan of the show, since it's been out almost a month, you probably already HAVE bought it...

So enjoy.