Randy Newman's Faust

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Randy Newman's Faust
Randy Newman's Faust.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 19, 1995
March 29, 2005 (expanded edition reissue)
RecordedFebruary 10, 1993 – June 1, 1995
GenreMusical, rock opera
LabelReprise/Warner Bros. Records
45672
Rhino/Atlantic Records (expanded edition reissue)
73785
ProducerPeter Asher, Don Was
Randy Newman chronology
Land of Dreams
(1988)
Randy Newman's Faust
(1995)
Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman
(1998)

Randy Newman's Faust is a 1995 musical by American musician and songwriter Randy Newman, who based the work on the classic story of Faust, borrowing elements from the version by Goethe, as well as Milton's Paradise Lost, but updating the story to the modern day, and infusing it with humorous cynicism.

In this retelling, God and the Devil fight for the soul of Henry Faust, a student at the University of Notre Dame.

The musical was performed at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in September 1995, and the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in Sept 1996, as well as released as a CD as a concept album.

In July 2014, a stripped-down, modernized "concert" version was staged for Encores! at New York City Center.[1]

Musical numbers[edit]

Background[edit]

In a 1995 New York Times piece, Newman said that he was first inspired to create a work based on Goethe's Faust in the 1970s, after a first reading of the play.[2] However, during a 2014 staging of the show at the New York City Center, Newman said onstage that "[Goethe's] Faust, of course, is a masterpiece: I read the classic comic book, and I concur.”[3]

Newman said he had already been a fan of works that concern Heaven (such as the 1930 Marc Connelly play Green Pastures, and the 1945 movie The Horn Blows at Midnight), and that "[i]t's such a big idea, with God and the Devil, that I thought I could put everything I knew into it and say whatever I wanted[.]" Regarding his own designs for the material, however, Newman also said that "...there's something so wise about [Goethe's Faust] that it made me want to try to destroy it, in a way," and "have all its wisdom frustrated by the nature of real human beings[.]"[4]

In 1980, Newman wrote a few songs for the project, as well as a rough draft of a script; he then put it aside to focus on his solo career and film composing.[2]

At one point Newman showed a script of the show to Mike Nichols, who criticized the conception of the show's "Faust" character, "Henry Faust," saying (as Newman put it), "The kid doesn’t have any arc. Nothing happens to him.” Newman later said, in 2017, "But I liked that. It makes for a gruesome evening of theater."[5]

The song "Sandman's Coming" was recycled from an episode of the 1990 television series Cop Rock, for which Newman had written a number of songs.

Production history[edit]

Randy Newman's Faust first had a limited run at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in September 1995, which coincided with the release of a concept album version, featuring a different cast and arrangements than the stage version. The stage production, directed by Michael Greif was praised for its score, but criticized for its script and characters.[6]

The script was rewritten by David Mamet for the second production, in Chicago's Goodman Theatre. This production, featuring the same principal cast, suffered similar criticisms that its script was still not the equal of its score. It ran from September 30 to November 2, 1996.[7]

On July 1, 2014, New York City Center's Encores! staged a one-night-only performance of the show. This version was stripped down for a more minimal "concert" presentation and heavily rewritten. As on the album (but unlike earlier stage versions), Newman himself assumed the role of Lucifer, alongside a new cast that included Isiah Johnson, Tony Vincent, Laura Osnes, and Vonda Shepard.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic2/5 stars[8]
Chicago Tribune2.5/4 stars[9]
Robert ChristgauA[10]
Entertainment WeeklyA[11]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[12]

In a contemporary review for Playboy, music critic Robert Christgau found the album's vivid songs and musical comedy settings ideal for Newman's "high-spirited cynicism": "Musical comedy is the perfect medium for his unique synthesis of soundtrack grandeur, blues-savvy studio rock, and general Americana."[13] He named it the fifth best album of the year.[14] However, Faust only finished 87th in the voting for the Pazz & Jop, an annual critics poll run by The Village Voice.[15] Al Weisel of Rolling Stone was critical of songs like "Little Island" and "Northern Boy", which he felt deviate from the storyline, although he called the album "the best work in years for all involved".[12]

"Life Has Been Good to Me" was performed by French Stewart as Harry Solomon on 1997's "A Nightmare on Dick Street," an episode of NBC's 3rd Rock from the Sun. "Relax, Enjoy Yourself" and "Can't Keep a Good Man Down" were performed by two different cast groups in "Ally McBeal: The Musical, Almost", the 2000 third-season finale of Ally McBeal.

The music for "Glory Train" was partially re-used by Newman in "The Great Debate", from the 2017 album Dark Matter.

Album cast[edit]

Album track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Randy Newman.

Disc One
No.TitlePerformer(s)Length
1."Glory Train"Randy Newman, James Taylor4:44
2."Can't Keep a Good Man Down"Randy Newman2:45
3."How Great Our Lord"James Taylor2:42
4."Best Little Girl"Randy Newman2:28
5."Northern Boy"James Taylor, Randy Newman2:55
6."Bless The Children of the World"Don Henley3:50
7."Gainesville"Linda Ronstadt3:30
8."Relax, Enjoy Yourself"James Taylor, Randy Newman, Kristyn Liang-chan5:41
9."Life Has Been Good To Me"Bonnie Raitt3:28
10."Little Island"Elton John3:20
11."The Man"Don Henley, Randy Newman3:14
12."My Hero"Linda Ronstadt2:35
13."I Gotta Be Your Man"Randy Newman2:31
14."Feels Like Home"Bonnie Raitt4:26
15."Bleeding All Over the Place"Randy Newman, Bonnie Raitt4:15
16."Sandman's Coming"Linda Ronstadt2:41
17."Happy Ending"Randy Newman3:21
Disc Two (2005 Expanded Edition reissue only)
No.TitleLength
1."Pass On Over (demo)"1:13
2."How Great Our Lord (demo)"3:48
3."Each Perfect Day (demo)"1:10
4."Best Little Girl (demo)"2:48
5."It Was Beautiful (demo)"2:16
6."Northern Boy (demo)"3:26
7."Bless the Children of the World (demo)"4:40
8."Damn Fine Day (demo)"2:32
9."March of the Protestants (demo)"1:50
10."Little Island (demo)"3:47
11."The Man (demo)"4:34
12."Love Time (demo)"6:51
13."Relax, Enjoy Yourself (demo)"6:55
14."When Love Is in the Air (demo)"3:21
15."Gainesville, Florida (demo)"3:26
16."Life Has Been Good to Me (demo)"3:28
17."My Hero (demo)"3:04
18."Hard Currency (demo)"3:13
19."Sandman's Coming (demo)"2:41
20."Basin Street Blues (demo)"2:06

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Playbill Archived August 20, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b Holden, Stephen (September 24, 1995). "POP MUSIC; Can a Pop Composer Help Out Broadway?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  3. ^ Isherwood, Charles (July 2, 2014). "The Devil Went to Midtown to Serenade the Lord". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  4. ^ Fitzsimmons, Lorna, ed. (December 23, 2008). International Faust Studies: Adaptation, Reception, Translation. A&C Black. p. 222. ISBN 9781847060044.
  5. ^ Fricke, David (September 15, 2017). "Randy Newman: My Life in 15 Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 2, 2019.
  6. ^ Los Angeles Times
  7. ^ Chicago Tribune
  8. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Randy Newman's Faust". AllMusic.
  9. ^ Chicago Tribune review
  10. ^ "CG: randy newman". Robert Christgau. October 31, 1995. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  11. ^ EW review
  12. ^ a b Weisel, Al (December 14, 1995). "Randy Newman's Faust Album Review". Rolling Stone. New York. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert (1995). "Randy Newman, Prince". Playboy (October). Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  14. ^ "Pazz & Jop 1995: Dean's List". The Village Voice. New York. February 25, 1996. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  15. ^ Christgau, Robert (February 25, 1996). "Lost in the Soundscape". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved September 9, 2014.