CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: What About Today? Melissa Errico Live at 54 Below

What About Today?Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

One of the joys of spending an hour of so with a Broadway star in a cabaret setting is the ability to really get a sense of who they outside of the parts they play. Melissa Errico‘s new album, What About Today? Live at 54 Below, gives you the sense that Errico is all over the place. Capturing a cabaret act conceived and directed byRichard Jay-Alexander, the disc opens with a track called “Why are actors so nuts?” and that very well could be the title of the album.

The good news is that Errico’s brand of nuts has produced a diverse and often thrilling set of songs that might not otherwise find their way onto the same album, from the art-pop ofMichel Legrand (“The Summer Knows”) and Burt Bacharach (“April Fools”) to musical theater classics like “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” (Finian’s Rainbow) and “Small World” (Gypsy) to more contemporary fare like “The Heart is Slow to Learn” (Dracula) and even a dip into disco (“Last Dance”). Her voice is as beautiful as ever, equally at home lending warmth to the soprano numbers and character to her belt. The three-piece band under the direction of Tedd Firth provide a strong backbone for the evening, and producer Michael J. Moritz Jr. preserves the intimacy of the 54 Below experience — just add your own cocktail.

As for the bad news? Well, patter isn’t Errico’s strong point, and there’s a lot of it on this album. She doesn’t always trust her material, leading to oddities like half-a-rendition of “It’s An Art” from Working, like she hadn’t convinced herself as to whether the number was in her act or not.

Still, the album’s delights far outweigh the questionable moments (and for those, we have the “skip” button). Errico’s “No More” (from Into the Woods) prove the she’s as good with a lyric as she is with a melody, and her long-time fans will thrill to finally have a recording of her feisty “Show Me” from My Fair Lady (which Errico starred in on Broadway in 1993).

Advertisements

CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: Marin Mazzie: Make Your Own Kind of Music – Live at 54 Below

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

marinmazzieFor years, when you polled Broadway fans for their choices of singers they wished would record a solo album, Marin Mazzie‘s name would always top that list. Thanks to the good people at Broadway Records, the wait is over, and once you hear Make Your Own Kind of Music, recorded live at 54 Below, I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth the wait.

The album, recorded in live in February, 2015, takes us on a musical journey through Marin’s childhood, starting with a few numbers she recalls from her parents’ record collection (“Come On-A My House,” sexier than Rosemary Clooney ever imagined it, “That’s All,” and a Sammy Davis, Jr.-inspired “Begin the Beguine,” the set’s only show tune). From there, it’s all ’70s, from the Partridge Family to Barry Manilow, and Mazzie manages to avoid camp to give us knock-out renditions of each and every song. Continue reading

CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: Nice Fighting You: A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 Below

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.


Nice Fighting You

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty have the kind of versatility that makes it hard to consider their output as one body of work. Do the Caribbean rhythms of Once On This Island have anything in common with the Americana of Ragtime or the soft rock of Rocky? This new release on Broadway Records argues not only that they do, but that each of these scores and the rest of the Ahrens and Flaherty catalog bear revisiting.

Recorded live over the course of three nights at 54 Below, the New York City nightclub in the basement of Studio 54, Nice Fighting You offers 36 of the duo’s songs performed by a starry cast of Broadway talent, many of whom have (or, in one case, will) played these roles in original productions and Broadway revivals. Your favorites are all here, sounding their best: Liz Callaway revisiting “Journey to the Past,” which she introduced in the film Anastasia, Mary Testa proving she can belt “Rita’s Confession” and “Fancy Meeting You Here” from Lucky Stiff as thrillingly as she did in 1988, and Marin Mazzie proving that “Goodbye, My Love” and “Back to Before” work as well in a tiny cabaret as they did in the gigantic original production of Ragtime. Kevin Chamberlin‘s gentle reading of “Solla Sollew” from Seussical may leave you wondering how that show could have possibly flopped. And Jeremy Jordan‘s introduction of “Dancing Still,” from the upcoming Little Dancer may compel you to research tickets to Washington, DC, where the show will have its first production at the Kennedy Center this fall.

That new song isn’t the only surprise on the album. Continue reading