BWW CD Reviews: Broadway Records' AHRENS & FLAHERTY: NICE FIGHTING YOU (A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 BELOW) is Festive and Fun
Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty have had an extensive career, composing music for the stage and screen over the last thirty years. As a team, they captured the hearts of my generation when we were young with their enchanting work on Anastasia. On Broadway, people clamored for RAGTIME and SEUSSICAL. Other notable projects include ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, LUCKY STIFF, ROCKY, and the film Camp. Now, after a series of concerts at the infamous 54 BELOW, fans of Ahrens & Flaherty and casual listeners have a beautifully produced retrospective of their work so far with Broadway Records' release of the fascinating AHRENS & FLAHERTY: NICE FIGHTING YOU (A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 BELOW).
For all of us Broadway obsessed, the sheer number of Broadway stars collected for this record makes it completely worth the price alone. Liz Callaway, LaChanze, Kecia Lewis, Quentin Earl Darrington, Jessica Molaskey, Sean McCourt, Mary Testa, Stephanie J. Block, Jeremy Jordan, Marin Mazzie, Kevin Chamberlin, Lewis Grosso, Bobby Steggert, Annaleigh Ashford, Julie Halston, Rebecca Luker, and Brian Stokes Mitchell all lend their vocal talents to the intimate cabaret. Each and every one delivers performances that are endearing and alluring, singing our favorite songs from the talented duo.
Spanning two discs, there are copious performances to adore across the 48 tracks. Liz Callaway's charming and youthful rendition of "Journey to the Past" from Anastasia is one of my absolute favorite tracks, kicking off the dual-disc album with spirit. Sean McCourt's lively and invigorating performance of "The Streets of Dublin" from A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE is another standout performance on the first disc. Stephanie J. Bock's vocals are stunning on the lovely "Ballerina" from LITTLE DANCE, which will open at The Kennedy Center on October 25, 2014. Marin Mazzie brings "Speaking French" from LUCKY STIFF to thrilling life. On "Solla Sollew" from SEUSSICAL, Kevin Chamberlain emotes with precision and makes the song touch the heart. Annaleigh Ashford and Bobby Steggert sing with grace and laudable aplomb on the sweet duet "Close (But No Cigar)" from the never produced BEDAZZLED. "White Milk and Red Blood" from DESA ROSE is sung with sensational emotional power by Kecia Lewis. Rebecaa Luker's radiant and mesmerizing version of "Something Beautiful" from a work in progress called LEGACY astounds because of her vocal poise. Brian Stokes Mitchell is gifted with the eleven o'clock number for the concert, and he blows audiences away with his graceful and lush rendition of "I Was Here" from THE GLORIOUS ONES.
The introductions to the songs on the discs give interesting insight into the careers of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Some of them are delivered by the team of writers and others are delivered by the performers. Each one is fascinating and adds to the recording. Additionally, both Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty step into performances, signing with cheer and joy on several of the tracks as well.
Whether you're a fan of Ahrens & Flaherty, Broadway, or the assembled stars on the discs, this is a fun and festive collection of hit songs and previously unheard treasures from the world of American Musical Theater. If you're like me, listening to these discs will make you sad you missed the cabaret performances when they occurred at 54 BELOW. Luckily, Broadway Records' AHRENS & FLAHERTY: NICE FIGHTING YOU (A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 BELOW) is a must-own for any Broadway enthusiast and for anyone who enjoys Broadway vocalists at their finest.
Broadway Records digitally and physically released AHRENS & FLAHERTY: NICE FIGHTING YOU (A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 BELOW) on June 3, 2104. The dual-disc album is available at iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold.
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