Just a few days ago, Jeremy Jordan tweeted about having lent his voice to a new musical theatre concept album called In the Light: A Faustian Tale.
It’s based on the legend of Dr. Johann Faustus, a German scientist who makes a deal with the Devil in order to pursue knowledge.
Now, I knew nothing about the story of the play or anything at all beforehand.
From what I was able to glean from the album when I first listened to it, the story is of Faustus, whose city is in trouble from the church in the 1400s or 1500s.
Going through the digital booklet for the album, I found that I was somewhat right. The album’s version of the story is of Dr. Johann Faustus and his fight to save his city from the church Inquisition that wants to take over control.
This album is epic! That’s the only way I can think to describe it. It’s epic in story, scope, orchestration, vocals, and execution!
The story is incredibly emotional. The prologue stands out for making it easy to feel for Dr. Faustus as all his work is burned before his eyes because he is guilty of having scorned the Inquisition.
Listening to the entire album, I didn’t trust the Traveller character and – sure enough – he is the play’s version of the Devil who tempted the original Faustus in writer Goethe’s version of the story.
The vocals really make this album shine. Special mention goes to Jeremy Jordan and Bobby Conte Thornton for bringing the relationship between Faustus and the Traveller to life.
As usual, Jordan’s talent is in the emotion he is able to bring to the performance. I have no problem buying him as the scorned Faustus.
As for the Traveller, I admit I like that Conte Thornton makes clear the power his character has over Faustus. It’s obvious every time they sing together that the Traveller is the one in control, not Faustus.
As for the other characters, I have to admit that I like Gretchen and Ana. Gretchen clearly struggles with what Faustus needs her to do and Ana is distraught and concerned over Faustus’ mental state as the story goes on.
In terms of music, these women really stand out in their respective songs. I particularly enjoyed Ana’s songs “The Man I Know” and its reprise. These are beautiful ballads that showcase her love for Faustus, and it’s never forced or cheesy in execution.
As for the actual person behind the role, Ciara Renée is perfect as Ana Faustus. It’s obvious through Renée’s voice that Ana really cares for Johann, and I felt for her whenever I heard her sing.
I also really felt for Gretchen throughout the story, honestly more so than Ana, because it was obvious she was in a situation that was less than ideal. As for Gretchen’s standout numbers, I really enjoyed “Dare to Dream,” although she’s not alone in that song.
I also need to give quick mention to Gretchen’s actress Solea Pfeiffer. She needs to go join an opera, because her voice range fits perfectly in that genre! I have to give her credit because I know you don’t come across that kind of talent every day!
Moving on from characters, I want to give mention to some of my favorite tracks from the album.
“Prologue” is one of the tracks I keep coming back to. The operatic chorus, the mixture of talking with the singing as Johann Faustus pleads his case before the Holy Inquisition, even the Latin chanting, all got me hooked and wanting to know what exactly was going on.
Hearing Faustus cry out repeatedly as his books and writings are burned by the Inquisition is heartbreaking, and Jordan’s performance is spot-on in conveying Faustus’ anguish. His line, “Please, just leave me one! Just one!” is going to haunt my dreams – I just know it!
“Tomorrow Begins Today” is – as opposed to the dark Prologue – a beautiful, heartwarming song that has incredible orchestration. From the piano and the cast bringing their all, it all comes together in this calm, peaceful message and it’s awesome!
“Rise or Fall” is very different, as the song’s quite intense, but I love that intensity! Even when it’s softer as Johann is praying that everything will be okay, there is a sense of urgency that I love!
I especially love the rapport Johann has with the Traveller. Hearing them together in the song just stirs up the adrenaline in me, and I love that feeling!
Speaking of Johann and the Traveller, “He is No Man” is a haunting song that perfectly represents the relationship between the two of them. Seeing Johann talk about the “demon at [his] door” with the Traveller in the background echoing his every word is chilling!
“In the Light” wasn’t a favorite of mine at first, but it grew on me after a time! I love seeing the Traveller getting to lead the song with the rest of the cast, and hearing Johann mirror his vocals for once is incredible! It’s like it’s all come together in one big crescendo at the climax. It’s perfect!
Finally, “Her Embrace” is the perfect finale for the album, with Johann coming to terms with his fate by reaffirming his love for his spouse. Jordan’s gentle, yet emotional performance of the song as it builds is really breathtaking!
Hearing him hit those high notes as the song reaches its climax is really incredible, and I couldn’t ask for a better ending for the album!
Considering I’ve been listening to this album nonstop for the past couple of days along with what I’ve outlined here, I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I think it is a masterpiece!
It’s intense, emotional, and heartfelt all the way from start to finish.
I highly recommend it for any Broadway fan who’s willing to hear a darker story with some deep, thought-provoking themes!