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on June 23, 2002
Thou Shalt Not is one of Broadway's most recent flops, assuming a place of honor alongside such other eager shows as Seussical and Jane Eyre. The score for the musical did win Harry Connick, Jr. a Tony nomination for Best Original Score, and the score has been preserved on CD for fans of Harry Connick, Jr., if for nobody else.
The CD itself is minimally packaged; lyrics to the songs are presented but there are no appreciable liner notes and (most regrettably) no synopsis to aid with connecting Connick, Jr.'s music with the story, which is a re-telling of Emile Zola's 1868 book, "Therese Raquin". The show's creators moved the setting from Paris to New Orleans, giving Connick, Jr. free license to use his talent for New Orleans jazz writing.
The story of Thou Shalt Not is built around the relationship of Laurent LeClaire (Craig Bierko) and a married woman, Therese Raquin (Kate Levering). Their heated affair climaxes at the end of Act One with the murder of the one obstacle in their relationship, Camille Raquin (Norbert Leo Butz) -- Therese's husband. Act Two features the return of Camille in ghostly form, intent on torturing the adulterous lovers.
If I had just purchased a new CD by Harry Connick, Jr., expecting his usual mix of fabulous jazz crooner songs and big band numbers, I would be extremely pleased with Thou Shalt Not. This point is emphasized even more in the sound of Norbert Leo Butz's rendition of "All Things" and "Oh! Ain't That Sweet", where Butz channels the sultry tones of Harry Connick, Jr. (and therefore, indirectly, Frank Sinatra) with astounding accuracy. The fact is that the recording encompasses some of Connick, Jr.'s best writing; that in concert with his full orchestration make this an almost must-have album for any fan of Harry Connick, Jr. An end-to-end listening to the recording, however, merely highlights Connick Jr.'s discomfort with the genre of musical theatre.
All of this discomfort is summed up in "Sovereign Lover", a five minute mishmash of styles that starts out as a love ballad for Therese (Kate Levering) before quickly turning into an upbeat jazz number, followed by a bizarre out-of-place tap break complete with "we're going to commercial at the Oscars" orchestra swells... and just when you're wondering what on Earth Connick is doing, all three all thrown together into a horrid non-climax that leaves you thinking you've just been listening to the original cast recording of "Waiting For Guffman"'s Red, White and Blaine. In fact, about a quarter of the recording is completely orchestral; this is no doubt due to the influence of Susan Stroman, who undoubtedly put intense, torrid music like "The Other Hours Ballet" and "Thou Shalt Not Ballet" to extremely effective use with her trademark 'Stromanography'.
As a cast recording from a piece of musical theatre, I think this is an extremely weak effort. As a collection of "Very Harry Connick, Jr." songs, I think it's wonderful. Musically, there are several standouts besides the aforementioned "All Things" and "Oh! Ain't That Sweet". Craig Bierko does a respectable job of a song I'd love to hear Connick record -- "The Other Hours". "Take Her To The Mardi Gras" is a high-energy company number with brassy orchestrations and latin overtones; "Won't You Sanctify" is a slow-burn New Orleans funeral march; and "It's Good To Be Home" (thanks to the efforts of Ted L. Levy as Papa Jack) reminds me of the best of Louis Armstrong.
All in all, this is a very strong recording of a musical theatre score that simply does not comprehend the genre. If Hamlisch's score for Sweet Smell of Success is a mix of ingredients that don't quite gel, Thou Shalt Not is a recipe that should never have been taken off the shelf. If you are a fan of Harry Connick, Jr., I think there is a great deal to enjoy on this CD.
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on December 30, 2002
This Broadway musical is somewhat unusual, because of Harry Connick's jazz fever.
So don't wait for some childish stuff here, it's a very serious fine musical, with much enjoying jazz band and with some truly remarkable orchestral and piano music.
First, I'm astonished by Harry Connick's ability to orchestrate. I'm a big symphonies listener, and Harry's orchestral work (like his orchestrations on the album `Song I Heard') is very impressively subtle. Everything on this album proves again what a gifted composer, and lyricist he is.
Harry sort of adapted the romantic wagnerian music to jazz, with this jazzy tragedy, because of the dramatic plot which convokes some very touching chromatic harmonies throughout the musical.
Singers are enough talented, lyrics are just like french poetry and the melodies are pure Connick shiny, entertaining or darkly moving ones.
This album is a very rare and precious experience, which won't surely please every Broadway musicals fan, but which will simply content listeners wishing for some refined narrative tragic and poetic music.
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on June 18, 2002
I was privileged to see the show on the 2nd of January (shortly before it closed). At the time, I can say I was much less than impressed with the show.

Now, 6 months later, the cast recording has arrived and is in much better shape than I remember the show ever being in.

The CD is well recorded. The sound is very deep and very, well, Harry... Additional musicians are credited, so perhaps the score has been filled out a great deal by extra pieces.

Kate Levering sounds very comfortable with her role as Therese. Strangely enough, Craig Bierko sounds very little like what I remember from that night at the Plymouth, but, nonetheless, he is a great artist. The star, however, is Norbert Leo Butz, who plays Camille, Therese's husband.

The music is quite evocative and I am remembering a great deal from the show (sets, choreo., etc.)

There are full lyrics but, alas, no pictures in the booklet.

Connick is quoted inside the front cover as saying,
"The last days of my experience with Thou Shalt Not were as exciting as the first. To hear the singers and musicians deliver the words and music comfortably, and with familiarity, was a joy. This recording represents a hugely important time in my life; the exhausting, marvelous days of my first Broadway show. My thanks to Susan Stroman, Tom Thompson, the cast, orchestra, and crew of Thou Shalt Not. Thanks for showing me a path which I'll travel, God willing, for many years to come." -Harry Connick, Jr.

For those who love Harry Connick, Jr. - you will love the show. It is great Harry music (though he doesn't appear on the recording, he plays piano on some tracks).

Pay special attention to:

3.) I Need to be in Love Ballet
9.) The Other Hours Ballet
15.) Tug Boat
18.) Time Passing
20.) Oh! Ain't that Sweet
21.) Thou Shalt Not Ballet

Well, it's finally here - for the better. It may not have been that great, but it is great to hear it again.
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on December 30, 2002
Unfairly overlooked -- I bought this CD as soon as it was available but didn't much enjoy it on first listen. I popped it in the CD player today and -- whoa! -- it's got lots of forboding layering, some stunning showstoppers, and great voices throughout. Highlights are "The Other Hours," and the upbeat numbers set in Mardi Gras. This is one of those CD's that pays rich dividends on repeat listenings -- and Norbert Leo Butz is fantastic as always. Percolate with this CD, and you won't be disappointed -- it's a stark and suprising addition to any Broadway collector's set!
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on July 15, 2002
I am SO HAPPY they made a CD of this musical. I saw it twice on Broadway. The wonderful upbeat numbers with Connicks music and Stroman's choreography was what made it so wonderful. The story is very dark, I mean VERY DARk. But the music is so fantastic for Harry's first try at a musical at the age of 32! I hope he does another. The musical numbers reminded me of a Harry Connick concert, with everyone joining in the party, and one feels like jumping out of one's seat and joining them. The story was much darker though. But, I really liked when it swerved into dark comedy. The ending... is something I've never seen before. I use this CD to work out to all the time. It is from a truly gifted artist that I hope will keep writing new things for stage and elsewhere!
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on June 24, 2002
This is an excellent CD PERIOD. Despite what critics said of the poorly received Susan Storman/ Harry Connick Jr. Musical, THOU SHALT NOT was an excellent show, with Connick's brilliant score accented by Stroman's always fascinating and phenomenal choreography and direction. The story is one of adult themes and makes a more anti-musical song and dance show. The songs are New Orleans jazz (where the story is set) featuring Blues, Swing, Dixie Land, and Baptist funeral hymns. Connick both wrote and orchestrated the music and if you are a fan of his, you will love this CD. The songs start out with the syncopated rhythm Connick uses as a conscience and a reminder of sins broken in the show. He then goes in to a nice jazzy blues song, and the show begins. Song after song you are amazed.
Now any one who saw the musical would remember the three ballet scenes. They are also included on the CD, which makes it even better. The first ballet sequence is with the lead female Theresa dancing; this is followed by the excellent love-making scene on the rotating bed, brilliantly stages by Stroman; and the final is the Thou Shalt Not Ballet, in which Theresa is tormented by her conscience, again brilliantly stage by Stroman.
The show features my second favorite Broadway Actor (sorry, first is Nathan Lane- Love him since Guys and Dolls) Norbert Leo Butz. This up and coming performer will be the next big thing to hit Broadway. Sounding much like Connick Jr. himself, Butz brings excellent quality to his performance as the Husband of Theresa, murdered by her lover Laurent. For those of you who saw the show, Butz was ANNOYING in the first act, creating an excellent character, but when he comes back in act II to comically haunt Theresa and Laurent, he is a loveable character. His hit song in Act II "Oh, Ain't It Sweet" allows him the freedom to show of his skills (singing on the CD and dancing acting and singing in the show). His other songs also standout on the album, including his finale song "It's Good to be Home" and the eerie song before her dies entitled "Tug Boat." Except to see Norbert Leo Butz on many more soundtracks of hit Broadway shows. (also by the Last Five Years, featuring Butz.)
Now, I also do not want to give you the impression the Butz (like the reviewers say) is the only thing good in Thou Shalt Not. The other actors did a very fine job. They sing their songs very strongly including Debra Monk's (and Butz's song) I got my Eyes on you and Ted L. Levy (a solo ensemble member) in "It's Good to be Home" and "Sanctify" (the funeral procession).
If you saw the show, this is an excellent soundtrack. You like Broadway musicals, this is a great soundtrack. You like Harry Connick Jr, this is a great CD. Buy this CD!
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on June 30, 2002
For all of those people who love seeing a fabulous flop Thou Shall Not- The Musical was a night like no other. The musical was a general disaster and at the performance i attended with the audience sniggering, answering back the actors and generally sitting there with mouths open in horror along comes the C.D. And thank God someone recorded it. Its like musical theatre heaven when something so obscure and so talked about gets onto a C.D for everyone else to listen to.
This is not a great musical but it is interesting. There is much to admire in its jazzy flavoured music. But believe me and all those who witnessed it what is on the C.D is a hundred times better than what was on stage.
After seeing the show I flew back to London not quite sure what I'd seen but thrilled that I'd seen it for all the wrong reasons.
But its great to have it recorded and unlike so many other musical theatre flops there is unflagging energy and interesting music. For fans of Harry Connick it may not be to their taste but to the small amount of people who saw it isn't it great to sing a long to it and relive it!
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on March 31, 2006
THOU SHALT NOT was a disappointing show because the source material (THERESE RAQUIN) has the potential to be a powerful musical.

Harry Connick Jr. penned the words and music for this show, yet it seems he has never studied some of the Broadway classics (from OKLAHOMA! thru RAGTIME) to learn how to use songs to develop character and advance the story. He has come up with some great tunes here, but rarely do they seem to have much in common with the tragic story. One notable exception is "The Other Hours" which is perfectly suited to the moment. "Take her to the Mardi Gras" is a geat up-tempo dance number, but much of the rest plays like a collection of songs rater than numbers which are part of an integrated story.

Connick says he hopes to continue to work on Broadway and as I write this in March 2006 he is starring in a smash-hit revival of PAJAMA GAME. Broadway can certainly use a composer of his talent, and we can only hope that he learns how to weave story and character into his songs for a future musical.

The cast on this CD is first-rate: Nobert Leo Butz, Craig Bierko, Kate Levering, Debra Monk are all fine. The CD is well-produced but the booklet contains only the lyrics and no notes about the show or a synopsis. Also no label or catalogue number. It seems to be a private release. Copies were sent to Tony voters when the score was nominated (it lost to URINETOWN)and then with little fanfare the CD started showing up on Amazon and other web-retailers and in speciatly shops like New York's Footlight Records, but it has never been given general distribution.

Was this prduction jinxed? Previews had to be delayed a week because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Opening night Craig Bierko was accidently hit in the throat durring a fight scene and was out of the show for 2 weeks. Kate Levering spained an ankle and was also forced out of the show for a spell.

Maybe the ghost of Camille Raquin is more powerful than we thought.
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on June 20, 2005
"Thou Shalt Not" is the kind of show that the cast and creative team could dine out on for years. That is, if they want to admit or even remember that they were involved in it. The show got terrible reviews when it opened on Broadway in October 2001, and barely cleared three months at the Plymouth Theater. It is pretty much a miracle that an entire cast album was recorded.

I saw this show late into its run, and must agree with almost all of the criticism that has been said towards this show. The book is so bad that it is practically non-existant; the music-though it can be rather splendid at times, definitely borders on clunkiness; and the lyrics are frequently ackward. The score, however, did earn a Tony nomination, and at times it is possible to see why.

With the exception of the wonderful Norbert Leo Butz and the ever-terrific Debra Monk, the performances are rather pedestrian. Craig Bierko doesn't have the right intensity for Laurent LeClaire, and Kate Levering is totally devoid of the appropriate sensuality required for Therese Raquin. Rumors has it that the two were lovers during the production, but there is less than zero chemistry between them.

This definitely falls in the "for cast album collectors only" category. If you have a large collection of musical theater CDs, this is the kind of item that can nicely round out a collection. However, if you are knew to musical theater, skip to Sondheim, Kander and Ebb and R&H, before visiting this legendary folly!
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on June 11, 2006
I honestly think that this score shows a lot of merit. "Oh! Ain't that Sweet" and "Take Her Two the Mardi Gras" are the very best from the score. However, this cast album of the show lacks a really good cast. The ensemble sounds like something along the lines of a chorus from The Carnival Cruise Line production of "Hooray for Hollywood!" The other performers aren't exceptional with the exception of Norbert Leo Butz who is in his element.
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