(Note: The following soundtrack review is based on listening experience alone and not on how the music works to picture.)
If there is a king in the magical realm of whimsical musicals it’s without a doubt, Alan Menken. The man has shaped the sound of the Disney musicals since the early 1990’s with his songs and scores to “The Little Mermaid”, “Aladdin”, “Beauty and The Beast” or even more modern ones like “Tangled” and the live-action remake of “Beauty and The Beast” [watch him perform some of his Disney songs]. He even goes so far as parody his signature style with films like “Enchanted”, “Mirror Mirror” or “Sausage Party”.
The 2015 TV series “Galavant” fits right into that latter category. Created by the writer of “Tangled” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love” (and also the “Cars” trilogy, but hey, nobody’s perfect), Dan Fogelman, the show centers around the title character of knight Galavant who rides out to save his love from an evil king.
If this plot sounds familiar to you, then congratulations. Take a cookie. The whole point of “Galavant” is, in fact, to turn that overly familiar storyline on its head and make as much fun of it as possible. Unfortunately, the show got canceled after its second season, but at least the world has now two seasons of Alan Menken poking fun at an entire genre.
62 songs full of witty lyrics and catchy melodies
There were soundtrack releases of the show, but in 2017, the world was blessed with “The Complete Collection”, which features two albums full of songs (one for each season). To confirm, whether this indeed is everything you hear in the show, one might have to watch the show. You may now boo the reviewer. However, even without knowing about the show, you can get a great deal of enjoyment just out of the songs.
The first track just starts out with one of the catchiest tunes in the history of ever and describing the titular hero with glorious lyrics like “A Fairy Tale Cliché” or talking about the “ecstatic and wildly acrobatic” love of the knight and his maiden. Lyricist Glenn Slater (who worked with Menken on “Home on the Range” and “Tangled” while also penning the sequel to “Phantom of the Opera”, “Love Never Dies”) really tells you how this is not your typical fairy tale while Menken does his best to keep that illusion.
If you’d just listen to the wonderful music while ignoring the words, you could really mistake this for another typical Disney musical but suddenly the villainous King Richard tells you that keeping the toilet seat up is what makes you a real man in the gospel-y “Manlyology” you know something’s off. “Bros Before Hoes” really weren’t words I ever expected to hear in a medieval musical, but here we go.
Slater didn’t hold anything back and viciously attacks any genre trope you can think of in the wittiest way possible. Something like “Jackass in a Can” is quite ingenious and very often not unlike something Monty Python might have done. Also: Having an annoyed choir telling a supporting character to shut up in a dramatic fashion is just gleeful.
To keep things interesting, Menken goes through various musical styles. Obviously, we have his typical Broadway style in songs like “Galavant”, “Maybe You’re Not the Worst Thing Ever” (which is a great turn on his typical “falling in love song” complete with a sweet flute solo), but then he goes full on rock with “Stand Up” or lets the bad guy sing a ballad in “A Day in Richard’s Life” (though not for long). The funky “Off with His Shirt” is also a treat. Why has no woman ever sung that about me? -looks down at Gollum-body- Oh…yeah… However, what is one thing that must be mentioned in a musical-review as well?
Kudos to a great cast
That’s right, the cast! The best melodies and lyrics will get lost on you when the singers aren’t up to snuff. Thankfully, Russel Crowe, Pierce Brosnan and Gerard Butler stayed the hell away from this thing and instead we got Joshua Sasse (Galavant), Timothy Omundson (King Richard) and Mallory Jansen (Madalena) as our main sort-of-love triangle and you will never get tired of listening to them ripping each other apart (“World’s Best Kiss” has them telling each other how terrible they are at kissing, maybe reminding you of “I’ll Never Tell” from the marvelous “Once More With Feeling” Episode from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”).
Sasse is great as the intentionally clichéd hero, but the true star of the two CDs is Omundson’s, King Richard. Whenever he gets the mic you will die laughing. He’s not only the best singer, he also gets some of the best lines.
Kudos should also be given to Vinnie Jones. Who would have thought that the assassin from “Snatch” or “the Juggernaut, B**ch!” (“X-Men 3”) had himself some vocal cords?
Galavant keeps mocking itself as well
The only negative might probably be, that two CDs full of musical singing without any breaks is a bit much. Together, the Complete Collection runs for approximately two hours and while every song is great, it can get tiresome. Some score cues by Menken (and Christopher Lennertz as well, who collaborated with Menken on “Sausage Party” as well) in between might have made the experience a bit easier.
Yet, if your only complaint is “too much of a good thing” you might have something pretty good on your hands after all. It’s all good stuff and whenever the cast breaks out into the catchy intro, you’ll be singing along!
And if the main theme annoys you, they got you covered! The opening of Season two (“It’s totally bitchin’!”) literally revolves around a band of pirates who are so fed up of the theme song, they commit suicide (“I don’t know if you noticed, but four pirates walked the plank last week. Middle of the ocean, just walked right off!”). That song, “A New Season”, in general is one of the best of the whole collection, referencing how the show didn’t win an Emmy and what a miracle it is that the new season was green-lit at all while taking jabs at football, the Golden Globes, and the Bachelorette.
And those aren’t the only shows referenced. Someone in the creative team must have a serious issue with “Game of Thrones”. “A New Season” has the hilarious “Winter isn’t only coming, it came and went already”. Or take a listen to “A Good Day to Die”, in which the characters go through various death scenarios until someone yells “This Isn’t Game of Thrones!”.
Talking about hilariousness, a last shout out has to be done to “You’re Mother Is a Whore!”. Apparently, the king tries to provoke a tavern brawl in that scene, insulting various guests. These, however, are so scared by his royal majesty, that they just go along, agree with everything he says and insult their own mothers themselves in more and more gross and absurd ways until all you hear is actual bleeping over the orchestral music. Fun Fact: The song was written with the beeps from the get-go. These are not censored lyrics.
In short: Listen to it, your lungs will be grateful
All in all, “Galavant The Complete Collection” is a joyful little gem, that sadly went unnoticed by many people, thanks to the shows non-existent marketing campaign. Still, give the music a go and the show, too, because it sure must be even better in context!
For now, however, just do like Galavant: cue the “Lutes, Viols [and]irritating little crumhorns” (“Serenade”) and immerse yourself into the glorious shenanigans Menken, Lennertz, and Slater prepared for you! Your lungs will be grateful.
Galavant: The Complete Collection is out now everywhere via Hollywood Records / Walt Disney Records. The 2-CD set is manufactured on demand when ordered from Amazon.com and can be ordered HERE. Galavant: The Complete Collection is also available in digital format HERE.