There are some terrific new CDs available for anyone who loves the theater. At the top of my list are recordings by three fine singers; then, some special releases of hard to find music from shows.
These days, everyone knows who Kristin Chenoweth is, but we’ll never forget that we loved her first. Her new CD, SOME LESSONS LEARNED is a winner. Not only is the petite dynamo in fine voice, but it’s also a pleasure to hear her reflect back on her Oklahoma roots, and produce songs that are very much in a country vein. How can you beat a lyric like the one in “I Didn’t”? “What tore our love apart was religion; he thought he was God, and I didn’t.” I also like the hard rocking “What More Do You Want,” and the very sweet “Fathers and Daughters” and “Borrowed Angels.”
No one on Broadway has a fuller, richer voice than James Barbour. His CD BRING ME GIANTS presents a theme of rising up from adversary. Smooth, powerful, emotional, no one sings classics like “Impossible Dream” and “Bring Him Home” better than Barbour. My only complaint is that I wish the names of the shows had been listed with the titles of the selections.
There’s nothing better than expanding our musical horizons. Ruhan is a popular Chinese singer. Her CD TIME TO GROW features ten songs in Chinese, and two in English. She has a lovely, lyrical voice, and is considered an international sensation; she sang the theme song for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and won the 2009 Discovery Festival contest in Wales. Her resume includes musicals and opera.
FOLLIES IN CONCERT is a 2 CD set featuring Carol Burnett, Mandy Patinkin, and Elaine Stritch. This is a new reissue of the 1985 cast recording which was done live in Avery Fisher Hall; Sondheim himself personally recruited the cast. Also included is Sondheim’s score for the film “Stravinsky.”
BABES IN ARMS was the first serious attempt to record the Broadway hit with music by famed duo Rodgers and Hart. This edition features not only the great Mary Martin and the popular Jack Cassidy, but also the original cover art and new liner notes.
Most of us are unfamiliar with BLACKBIRDS OF 1928 and SHUFFLE ALONG, but we now have a CD featuring songs from both of these pioneering all Black musicals from the 1920’s.The talent involved includes Cab Calloway, Eubie Blake, Dorothy Fields, and Thelma Carpenter. New liner notes accompany the original artwork.
With book by Thomas Meehan and Peter Stone, and music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, the new CD of DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY is a real treasure. This is the original Off –Broadway cast from the Roundabout production.
The Broadway cast of “Hair” performs DIVINE HAIR MASS IN F. Familiar tunes like “Aquarius” and the title song are combined with religious offerings.
RUMPLESTILTSKIN is a charming CD, perfect for getting youngsters to appreciate the art of the musical. Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, this recording features Dom De Luise, catchy tunes, and clever lyrics.
So consider giving one or more of these CDs to a theater loving friend, and include a note that reads “enjoy this while your wrap my present.”
Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. She is a voting member of Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association, and International Association of Theatre Critics. www.michalljeffers.com