Album: Kinky Boots (Masterworks Broadway)
Why we care: You've got to figure that this musical about a shoe factory owner and a drag queen is a Tony Award favorite — it has 13 nominations — on the strength of the Cyndi Lauper score, not because the music is so great but because Broadway loves a pop star.
Why we like it: Stark Sands, Billy Porter and Annaleigh Ashford are appealing performers, but the show is pretty derivative. Harvey Fierstein's book from a 2005 British movie evokes two other working-class screen adaptations, The Full Monty and Billy Elliot, and the drag angle has been mined, from La Cage aux Folles to Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Reminds us of: True Colors
Download these: Sex Is in the Heel, The History of Wrong Guys, Not My Father's Son
Album: Cinderella (Ghostlight Records)
Why we care: The big family musical theater outing of the year, this Rodgers and Hammerstein gem was first seen (by an audience of more than 107 million) in a 1957 live CBS broadcast, staring Julie Andrews, and later remade for TV with Lesley Ann Warren (1965) and Brandy and Whitney Houston (1997). But it was not done on Broadway until now.
Why we like it: Laura Osnes is radiant as Cinderella, or "Ella," her fairy godmother is the droll Victoria Clark, and Santino Fontana is the prince named Topher. Annoyingly, for purists, the CD booklet has lots of photos from the show but no lyrics (available only online).
Reminds us of: Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, et al
Download these: In My Own Little Corner, Impossible, Cinderella Waltz, A Lovely Night
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Album: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Masterworks Broadway)
Why we care: Megan Hilty has been getting around — recent recordings include the soundtrack from TV's ill-fated Smash and a solo disc — but she is best represented by this terrific Encores production of the Jule Styne-Leo Robins musical made famous by Carol Channing in the original and Marilyn Monroe in the movie as Lorelei Lee.
Why we like it: The cast also includes Rachel York (so splendid in the Anything Goes tour this year). The jazzy vocal arrangements by Hugh Martin are a particular treat.
Reminds us of: Other top-notch scores by Styne, from Bells Are Ringing to Gypsy
Download these: It's High Time, A Little Girl From Little Rock, I Love What I'm Doing, Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend
Album: Dogfight (Ghostlight Records)
Why we care: Here's a bracing surprise, a recording of an Off Broadway show by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, better known for A Christmas Story, up for three Tony Awards. Dogfight is something else entirely, following three Marines on their last night on the town before shipping out to Vietnam in 1963.
Why we like it: A musical about Marines? Seeking ugly dates — "dogs" — to win a cruel bet? The audacity of this show is matched by the brilliance of its score. There are tremendous performances by the awkward romantic pair played by Derek Klena and Lindsay Mendez and Annaleigh Ashford (see Kinky Boots) as a near-toothless prostitute.
Reminds us of: Stephen Sondheim
Download these: Hey, Good-Lookin', Pretty Funny, First Date/Last Night