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Tuesday, 21 June 2011 22:57

Broadway Goes to the Beach 2011 - The Recordings

Thanks to the fine folks at Ghostlight Records, we have some terrific new releases of Broadway original cast recordings and several solo albums from three contemporary Broadway divas, Sutton Foster, Kelli O'Hara and Alice Ripley. These come out just in time to load up that iPod to go to the beach. Representing this past Broadway season we have Catch Me If You Can, Book of Mormon and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Along with my own two cents on each one, you can listen to samples of the recordings by clicking on "Read More..." below.

This week it's the recordings, next week I'll be covering the newly released books from Applause Books.

As a general rule, I don't like albums that are recorded live. I find the applause disruptive of what is ordinarily an uninterrupted listening experience (particularly after a lovely ballad.) On "An Evening with Sutton Foster Live at the Carlyle" Sutton Foster makes the audience a party to her performance. Her patter feels effortless and un-forced, like her delivery of "Warm All Over" which floats from her effortlessly.  She does a gorgeous kick-ass version of the Harburg/Arlen classic "Down with Love."  The album ranges from Broadway to John Denver and Carol King.  I love this recording.
Kelli O'Hara's new recording "Always" is my favorite new album. She is fun and playful with a pure tone. The arrangements and the five piece combo backing her up are perfectly balanced with her voice. O'Hara's song selections are nicely varied and focus on the songs that men sang in the original show context. She starts with the perky "What More Do I Need" from Stephen Sondheim's first musical Saturday Night. She has a great time with "He Loves Me" from She Loves Me.  Her "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George is sung with intense passion. "This Nearly Was Mine" which was sung by her co-star Paolo Szot when they appeared together in the Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific is magnificent. I didn't particularly like "Another Day" from "The Bridges of Madison County" but that had more to do with the song itself. It was written by Robert Jason Brown (13, Parade, Urban Cowboy). The faux country song "They Don't Let You in the Opera (If You're a Country Star)" is cute. You can't go wrong with this recording.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown was one of my least favorite shows of this past season. I even decided against reviewing it because I saw it a few weeks after opening and its fate had been sealed. That said, I love this CD. Laura Benanti singing "Model Behaviour" is one of the recording's highlights.
The music from The Book of Mormon is absolutely infectious. I can't stop playing this recording. The recording's producer has chosen to include just enough dialogue from the show to give the recording context and make it an enjoyable listen for folks who haven't had the pleasure of seeing the show (and probably won't get a chance to until some time in 2012 thanks to its impressive nine Tony Awards.) Go ahead and treat yourself to the next best thing to seeing the show, listening to the original cast recording, you’ll be glad you did. Get The Book of Mormon Tickets

Despite the fact that I didn't much care for Catch Me If You Can, this is an enjoyable recording.  It contains Norbert Leo Butz’s Tony winning performance of “Breaking All the Rules,” probably one of the best numbers in the show.  The composers of the show, Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, are the two gentlemen behind the music for Hairspray and “Southpark the Movie, Bigger, Longer, Uncut,” two of my favorite musicals of the last decade.  By comparison, Catch Me If You Can disappoints.  Get Catch Me If You Can Tickets

Alice Ripley's "Daily Practice" was not one of my favorites in this group. It's a solo album with Ripley accompanying herself on guitar. Perhaps I have listened to Next to Normal once too many times but there is a maudlin and tortured quality to her voice that I personally find grating. It worked brilliantly in Next to Normal, it's not an album I will listen to frequently.

On the album she covers songs from some of Rock 'n Roll's greats including: Carol King's "It's Too Late," Sting's "Message in a Bottle," Bruce Springstein's "Thunder Road," and Carly Simon's "Anticipation." Ms. Ripley's musicianship is not in question here, it's merely a matter of personal taste. Have a listen and decide for yourself.

Last modified on Wednesday, 22 June 2011 07:39