CD REVIEW: Easy Listening, Heartfelt Show Tunes From Audie Gemora
It was in 1995 when Audie Gemora, the Philippines' revered "King of Musical Theatre," released his self-titled debut album under Universal Records. Although the recording won him Best Performance by a New Male Recording Artist award for his single "Loving You," the studio album contained all pop songs, surprisingly devoid of songs from stage musicals.
Flash forward to 2009: Stages Production Specialists Inc. (known for recent stage productions of Disney's "High School Musical On Stage" and Broadway classic "West Side Story") has independently produced and released "Playlist," Gemora's first all-musical theater album, which features some of the most memorable and poignant songs from Broadway, the West End, and Philippine Musical Theater.
These brand new recordings, done in a sweeping, easy-listening manner, effortlessly succeed with Gemora's rich baritone and heartfelt renditions. You will never get tired listening to the tracks over and over again.
Lay off the pop songs; Gemora is best at singing show tunes.
Gemora grabs your attention, and enjoins his listeners to experience beautifully-written songs with the album's first track, "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" from PAL JOEY.
You will fall in love anew as Gemora croons old Broadway tunes "Love Look Away" from FLOWER DRUM SONG, "Shall We Dance" from THE KING AND I, "If Ever I Would Leave You" and "I Loved You Once in Silence" from CAMELOT, "With You" from PIPPIN, and "Try To Remember" from THE FANTASTICKS.
His take on ditties from contemporary musical theater composers such as "Someone To Fall Back On" by Jason Robert Brown, "Alone In The Universe" and "I Was Here" by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens are sung with deep emotion and vulnerability, with all heart and soul. These recordings would likely appeal to the younger generation of theatergoers though.
Another contemporary hit song, "For Good" (a duet with fellow musical theater stalwart Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo) from WICKED, is one of the thrilling highlights of the album.
The album producers have also included the haunting ballad "Lawin: Awit Ni Isagani" from the Filipino musical EL FILIBUSTERISMO. Gemora originated the role of Isagani in the musical, featuring music by Ryan Cayabyab, staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in the '90s.
"This Is The Moment" from JEKYLL AND HYDE is apparently the album's weakest link. The laidback approach to the album's overall sound is very much an antithesis to Frank Wildhorn's anthemic ballad, which is best sung out loud, and with that "theatrical" conviction.
Nonetheless, kudos to the team behind Gemora's "Playlist," especially to Hong Kong-based musician Rony Fortich for his fresh take on the arrangements, and to producers Jeff Arcilla and Stella Sison.
"Playlist" is a rare gem.
To purchase the album, call STAGES at telephone no. (632) 818-1111 loc. 225 or 209 (Thes Bolneo) or visit www.stages.com.ph.