Suffs

Original Broadway Cast, 2024 (Atlantic) 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) Shaina Taub has previously shown talent and skill in composing scores for and playing featured roles in The Public Theater’s musical adaptations of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and As You Like It. With Suffs, Taub has not only written the book, music, and lyrics for the show, but she stars in it as well. This recording showcases her refreshingly intelligent score from start to finish. Songs such as “Worth It” and “This Girl” are not empty ballads; they have lyrics that probe and explore the characters’ thoughts and feelings thoroughly, without a slant rhyme to be heard. The group numbers are equally thrilling as they present the titular Suffs — suffragettes fighting for the voting rights of women from roughly 1913 to 1920. Taub is joined in the all-female cast by Nikki M. James, Jenn Colella, Ally Bonino, Hannah Cruz, Grace McLean, Emily Skinner (somewhat disappointingly underused in two small roles), and too many others to name. James is searing in her first act solo, “Wait My Turn,” and Cruz and Bonino in their featured moments add an endearing quality to the fiery group of women. Grace McLean is perhaps a bit campy while playing President Woodrow Wilson, but does represent a suitably frustrating obstacle for the Suffs to overcome. The standout performance on the recording is from Colella as Carrie Catt, a more moderate suffragette who acts as a foil to Shaina Taub’s character, the relentless Alice Paul. Their characters’ vocal slugfest during the convention sequence is musical theater gold. In this age of homogenized vocals and auto-tune, this recording deserves praise for basking in the distinctive and unique voices of its performers. Two quibbles keep the album from being absolutely top-notch: one, the women in the show are so singular in their passion to win the vote that the story and songs fall into a rather predictable pattern. There is a rally, a setback, and then resilience, which leads to another rally, another setback — and so on. Secondly, the fact that there are so many historical figures portrayed in the show means that sometimes the listener is treated to Wikipedia-like summaries of their biographies. But these quibbles aside, Suffs is a highly recommended recording for the merits of its excellent score and stellar cast. — Forrest Hutchinson