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I enjoyed seeing Rock of Ages, but its success has caused me a great deal of frustration. With the introduction of an 80s jukebox musical, all of this power rock began to infiltrate my beloved Standing Room Only Playlists. Then I heard news that Rock of Ages star and front man for Twisted Sister, Dee Snider, was making Dee Does Broadway: an album that consisted of all heavy metal versions of Broadway staples. Just the notion of that seemed hilarious, and then I listened to it. One thing becomes immediately apparent: Dee isn’t just messing around, and he knows his musical theater. The songs he selected reach the whole gamut of Broadway greats: Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Veil and Brecht, Rogers and Hammerstein, and Leonard Bernstein. Dee’s doing of Broadway is not just a solo endeavour; he’s brought a small army of A-listers including Cindy Lauper, Bebe Neuwirth, Clay Aiken, and even Patti Lupone. When people think of musical theater I find that people think of dorky comedies or a big tragic ballad. Dee embodies that ever-essential element of fun that often gets pushed to the sidelines.
The opening track (the eponymous song from Cabaret) sets the tone for DDB perfectly: big and fun. There’s a whole lot of honesty when Dee bursts out “I love a Cabaret” and that big pile of love is there for the whole album. “The Ballad of Sweeny Todd” makes an even stronger case for the album’s existence. Its subject matter makes for natural heavy metal and could’ve probably passed for a legitimate Iron Maiden song if the musical never came out. “Big Spender” is a fun take, and Lauper really sells it. Dee’s callouts during the songs also serve as big spoonful of camp fun. “The Ballad of Mac the Knife” starts off like your standard Darren-esque cover of the song with Dee dropping the metal for the first part to play it cool. This track doesn’t quite work as well as the others. “Whatever Lola Wants” works great as the electric guitar gives the number a sort of lap dance sleaze quality to an overlooked classic from Damn Yankees.
“Music of the Night” makes for a great power ballad, also one of the few numbers to maintain it’s piano elements. One of my favorite tracks, “The Joint is Jumpin”, starts off with some swinging speed metal and somehow manages to do a great cover of Fatts Waller without any piano. There’s also some sweet father and son bonding with his son Jesse Blaze Snider. “Luck be a Lady Tonight” is the funniest number on the album with some great callouts (“That ain’t dice!”) and is a great deal of fun. The clash between the brass and electric guitar in “I Get A Kick of You” somehow works for the hook in this number. “There’s Nothing like a Dame” is the surprise standout of the album bringing a whole new angle to an otherwise pretty vanilla song. After listening to this, you will at least wonder (if not want to see) a heavy metal version of South Pacific. Finally we reach some Chicago with “Razzle Dazzle” back to the big brass with electric guitars, and cowbell – yes this is the song with brass, electric guitar, and a cowbell in a show tune. Only on Dee Does Broadway would this track possibly exist. It ends with a big show-stopping “Tonight” from West Side featuring Patti LuPone. Here Snider shows he can do more then the wail with genuinely great classic signing and a great big finish.
All and all, Dee Does Broadway proved to be a surprising and passionate heavy metal journey created by a talented performer who has a genuine love and respect for musical theater. If you manage to put your inner critic to the side, suspend your disbelief, and throw up the horns, you’ll find yourself having a rocking good time.