Books, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup

Hi everyone,

Happy Holidays!

It's "crunch-time" for gift giving and it's never too late to get a gift certificate from Amazon.com, who I wholeheartedly support, because I have yet to find better pricing on everything that my colleagues and I write about and review here at BroadwayWorld.com ... No, this is not a paid endorsement.

I haven't filed in a while and we'll be doing a huge bookdrop, after the first of the year, when it's cold and many of you will be staying in, which always makes it a good time to read and catch up on books.

I'm going to start with what I think is the unconditionally, best, guaranteed "stocking-stuffer" this season and that is ... HANDS-DOWN ... the DVD of EVERY LITTLE STEP. Then, what follows, will be a "grab-bag" of reviews of CDs and a handful of books.

We at BWW are wishing you all a safe and happy holiday and I hope that Santa brings you everything that you want and that 2010 proves healthy and profitable for all.


QUALITION MUSIC

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (2 out of 5)

The two artists in question are not a couple nor an existing ACT and the song choices make the duets a bit odd for that reason. Michael Feinstein is very skillful and important to the American Songbook and keeping it alive. Cheyenne Jackson can do NO wrong and is one of the nicest, most talented guys to come along in some time. He also seems to have no limitations and is gradually growing from stage to regular film and television work. The reason for the pairing? Anyone's guess ... I can't imagine why a musical marriage of any kind for these two. I did not see the act they did together at FEINSTEIN'S at the Loews Regency, but listening was enough for me.

EVERY LITTLE STEP - The Journey of A CHORUS LINE
SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup
(5 out of 5)

Bravo to John Breglio for bringing this to the screen (where it has a nice chance at an Academy Award nom and win for Documentary) and the JAM-PACKED DVD. A 'must-have' and perfect stocking stuffer for any theatre fan or musicals enthusiast. If you're in "the business" … even more so. For those of you that saw it in theatres (and for those of you who live in places that it never got screened in) the DVD looks and sounds great. The extras – deleted scenes, interviews with John Breglio, Bob Avian and Baayork Lee, commentary that includes Marvin Hamlisch, a "featurette" conversation with Donna McKechnie, a passionate and knowledgeable interview with Frank Rich … ALL OF IT … just FANTASTIC! The documentary, of course, is mainly about the casting of the revival that recently played on Broadway, which could never have even begun to approach the thrill and genius of the "original." But, that said, it's still blood and guts of a different type, as the show now had legendary status and EVERYONE wanted to be in it. Interestingly … it becomes about Cassie .. and Donna McKechnie STEALS the film altogether .. proving … not saying … proving .. it was created on her and for her … and that she was a creature unlike any other. Point of fact. The other scene-stealer is Jason Tam. Buy this .. you'll know what I mean. Again .. don't think twice about buying it!

Barbara Cook - The Essential Collection
DRG

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (5 out of 5)

Barbara Cook just turned 82 and she's not stopping … nor should she. The voice is still like a silvery bell and this is a GREAT collection, especially for the person who doesn't own any of her recordings. For those that do … what we have here are recordings from 1993 – now (previewing some cuts from her forthcoming album). I just never get tired of listening to her and, for singers, there is much here to learn. The DVD is of MOSTLY SONDHEIM, done at The Met and Purchase, NY. There is also a 24 page booklet with notes by Renee Fleming, Frank Rich, Sheldon Harnick and others, along with great photos. A really nice gift!

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Rebecca Luker - Greenwich Time
PS CLASSICS

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (2 out of 5)

Rebecca Luker tells us: "This is a recording I'd been waiting nearly a decade to make." For FANS only…this recording is all over the place and full of "obscurities." A few are O.K. …. Almost an entire album .. not for me.

Donna Lynne Champlin - Old Friends
Parting Glass Productions

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (3 out of 5)

I'm a fan of this actress/singer/musician and, if one is to believe what we've read about how this album was recorded … then she gets the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY Budget Award of the year. Click Here for Her Blog detailing the process of creating the album in her bathroom. The album is nice and the sound and production are good, but, again, the choices are all over the place. In the instance of Ms Champlin, obscurity works better for her than others, as her career has been quite checkered and fascinating. Worth a listen.

Brent Barrett - Christmas Mornings
Kritzerland

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (3.5 out of 5)

This is a nice recording, but for a Christmas album to have a shelf life, it usually comes with an "idea" or "concept" or unique arrangements. Brent Barrett fans won't be disappointed … but, honestly, not a lot of "jingle" here. The Liner Notes by the actor/singer are sincere. Produced by Bruce Kimmel and Mr. Barrett. Musical Direction and Arrangements by Christopher Denny and Orchestrations by Larry Moore.

Liz Callaway - Passage of Time
PS CLASSICS

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (5 out of 5)

This girl can do NO wrong. The voice, the song, choices, the extraordinary arrangements. Liz Callaway and Alex Rybeck are TOTALLY in SYNCH! Not just this time, but always. Not a "dud" on the entire record .. AND .. GREAT NEWS … she'll be at The Metropolitan Room again over the Holidays. Great Gift … Sure to please.

NINE: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
GEFFEN

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (2 out of 5)

If you want NINE, 9, or nine … get the original 1982 Original Broadway Cast Recording. You still can't beat it. It's still difficult to believe it beat DREAMGIRLS for the Best Musical TONY that year, but Tommy Tune's concept was "tight" and "well executed." We love you Rob Marshall, but the film's not great and, although the recording isn't bad … it really doesn't reflect what we see in the film. The new songs (which are requisite if one hopes for an Oscar nomination, are just O.K.) Particularly offensive is Kate Hudson's number – totally stolen from Madonna's VOGUE. As for Sophia Loren … yes, a film legend, but not a singer. Remember how great she was as Aldonza in the film of THE MAN OF LaMANCHA? You get the point.

Susan Boyle - I DREAMED A DREAM
SONY/COLUMBIA

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (4 out of 5)

Well, by now it's a pretty well-known fact that this recording has gone triple platinum and shown everyone how NOT dead the record business is – if you give the people what they want. The question is …. WHO ARE the people who are buying this so voraciously? Well .. my aunt, my nephew, etc. Hey, you can't argue with success. We all watched (especially well tracked by BWW) the meteoric rise of the YouTube video queen of all time, but it is a bit weird seeing her now – hair colred, polished, showing up EVERYWHERE on television, having her own special in London, with a guest appearance with the cast of LES MISERBLES … and on and on. The recording itself? Well produced, interesting song choices and particularly interesting … WILD HORSES. I DREAMED A DREAM is there, of course, just in case you haven't heard it enough. It will be interesting to see how long this lasts and if upcoming recordings do as well. This is DEFINITELY the CINDERELLA STORY of 2009. Sadly, the "sticker" boasts: "As Seen On YouTube".

13 Special 2-disc set - Bonus Karaoke CD!
Ghostlight Records

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (3.5 out of 5)

Well, some time has passed and 13 will be a big RENTAL in stock & amateur rights, so this should be invaluable to all those students auditioning for the show. If you ARE/WERE a fan of the Original Broadway Production … it should be noted that there are four bonus tracks of songs that were cut and 2 of them sung by the author. Jason Robert Brown is beloved in our community and this show was a heartbreak for him. This will be the definitive edition of the material.

Michael Jackson'S THIS IS IT
EPIC

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (2 out of 5)

"The Music That Inspired The Movie" ... this is a pretty poor excuse for a release. The movie … fascinating. This album – pure greed and marketing. Any MJ collection currently available or that you may already own is better than this. Save your money.

GLEE Season One - Volumes 1 and 2
COLUMBIA

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (5 out of 5)

Yes, Yes, Yes! Fun, Fun! Fun! And, no doubt, the DVDs will be, too. Both volumes now available and GREAT stocking stuffers … even the colors are great. 34 songs – some better than others, to listen to, but brilliant, as you recall how they were done on the show. The greatest thing to happen to "catalogue" in years!!!! Albums produced by Adam Anders and series producer, Ryan Murphy. Personal favorite NOT on the discs – REHAB …. But I'm sure it's because it wasn't performed by the CAST of the show.

Alan Cumming - I Bought A New Car Today
YellowSound Label

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (2 out of 5)

Alan Cumming made an auspicious American stage debut in the Broadway revival of CABARET, which was first done at London's Donmar Warehouse. He was odd, interesting, sexy, impressive, skillful ………. and "out there." He's still all of those things and an accomplished actor, but this recording is all over the place. If you're a fan, you might be interested. But a fantastic theatre actor does not a recording artist make. Sorry, Alan.

MEMPHIS - Original Broadway Cast Recording
Delray Records

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (5 out of 5)

MEMPHIS did not get great reviews, but just about everyone that sees it, loves it. This recording is fantastic! High-Octane start to finish. The album is produced by David Bryan. Get it .. AND go see the show!

THE SOUND OF MUSIC - 50th Anniversary Edition
Masterworks Broadway

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (5 out of 5)

So, when this landed on my desk …. I thought … "That's gonna be a chore to listen to." WRONG! What a delight! First of all, the SOUND on this CD is fantastic. And nothing about it sounds out-dated or old fashioned. I had a big smile on my face and cried too. The great thing about these Original Cast Recordings is that they totally tell the story, even without knowing the book scenes. Mary Martin was never a great singer, but her voice was/is distinctive and that lilt – magical. This edition of THE SOUND OF MUSIC is definitive and if you don't have a recording of this show on your shelf – this is the one to buy. Even more so than the film soundtrack. There are 3 fantastic bonus cuts and great liner notes by Bert Fink, from the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. Also, great photos. This edition is beautifully packaged and this is a fantastic idea for a stocking-stuffer!" The album may have been recorded at Columbia Records' 30th Street Studio on November 22, 1959 … but it couldn't sound fresher. A "No-Brainer!" Get it.

Chita Rivera: AND NOW I SWING
Yellow Sound Label

I refuse to rate this record because Chita is Chita … and that's all there is to it. There has never been anyone like her and it's not likely there ever will be again. She is in a class of her own and as we watch revivals of musicals in which she originally starred, it becomes all the more painfully apparent. Chita Rivera is so well represented in ravishing performances on Original Broadway Cast Recordings of such musicals as WEST SIDE STORY, BYE BYE BIRDIE, CHICAGO, BAJOUR and many others, that this recording is an after thought. If you're a Chita fan .. by all means – buy it. Must have? No … BUT you will hear some of the sweet things she has done in her solo shows, both on Broadway or on the road, as well as in clubs like Feinstein's and Birdland. We love you, Chita.

Kate Baldwin: LET'S SEE WHAT HAPPENS - Songs of Lane & Harburg
PS CLASSICS

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup (2.5 out of 5)

Where to begin? Kate Baldwin is an "enchantress" on stage and has rapidly moved up the Broadway female food chain, making her a desireable leading lady "get." There's the "rub." She doesn't possess a great "recording" voice and is "singing" so much, she barely "mines" a lyric. Her debut recording is a mish-mash of sorts and the album title is a bit misleading as to what we will hear. The first cut "That Something Extra Special" is so "off-putting" I almost didn't continue. Noisy, sour strings and some pitchy points. It's a shame she wasn't allowed to have a debut recording that wasn't so "focused" and "limiting" in scope .. so that we might have learned something of HER musical taste. What little fun exists on this CD is due to the (minimal) contributions of Jonathan Tunick – who ALWAYS knows what he's doing. Other orchestrations and arrangements are all over the place, which further makes this a difficult listening experience. Sorry, Kate .. we love you … but ….

A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages
Kristin Chenoweth and Joni Rodgers
Simon & Schuster

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup
(3 out of 5)

Well … I'm not sure what to write about this book. Clearly, a Kristin Chenoweth autobiography (of sorts) seems a bit premature, but with WICKED in the title – the publisher's knew what readership they were going after and I guess they were right because the book, at a whopping 256 pages, made it onto The New York Times Best Seller list (Hello, amazon.com pre-orders!) The book is edited and executed well and the generous number of photos of the Oklahoma girl on her way to the "big-time" are the most charming thing about the book. The content of the writing is "glossy" and somewhere in there is the REAL story. At breakneck speed, all topics are touched on – sex, glamour, pageants, God, dating, Broadway, television, film, recordings and, yes, even recipes. Also included .. they have laid out for us a Kristin Chenoweth timeline which incites laughter, but also impresses. In her "Questions I'd Like to Ask God" section – "Who killed Jon Benet Ramsey?" … I'll leave it at that. Definitely for the Kristin Chenoweth FAN.

WICKED The Musical: A Pop-Up Compendium of Splendiforous Delight and Thrilligying Intrigue
Melcher Media

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup
(5 out of 5)

What Greg Call, Kees Moebeerk and Paul Kepple have created here is quite astonishing and a fantastic gift for anyone who loves WICKED, the musical – whether they are young or adult. Beautifully done and if you really spend time with the book … you will discover some secret "artifacts .. (and artifactions)."

I'VE SLEPT WITH EVERYBODY
Sondra Lee
Bear Manor Media

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup
(2.5 out of 5)

Oh my goodness! This book was quite an unexpected surprise. Great? No. Worth reading? Yes! If you know of her from PETER PAN or HELLO, DOLLY! or even LA DOLCE VITA, this "memoir" will sort of stun you. She's a well known acting teacher now, but was lovers with Marlon Brando and mentored by Jerome Robbins. Now you want to read it, right? It's a quick and juicy read.

Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID From the Deep Blue Sea to the Great White Way
By Michael Lassell
DISNEY Editions New York

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup
(3.5 out of 5)

This is a companion book to the Broadway musical no longer on the boards. A typical "behind-the-scenes" format with "Never Before Seen Photographs."

This edition isn't quite up to the lavishness of previous Disney "companion" books, but if you or a young theatre go-er loved the show, this will surely put a smile on their face – and probably a bargain, compared to what you can spend in a theatre on a souvenir book and other stuff. The most heart-warming entry (for me) is the book's dedication to the memory of Howard Ashman (1950-1991) – the animated film's original writer/lyricist, who worked on many projects with friend and composer Alan Menken. Also in the dedication: "And to little mermaids … everywhere." WHEREVER They may be!

MEN ARE STUPID … AND THEY LIKE BIG BOOBS / MURDER AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS
Joan Rivers with Valerie Frankel and Joan Rivers with Jerrilynn Farmer
Pocket Books

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup
(5 out of 5)

Joan Rivers is, and has been, a BUSY gal! Since she walked off with the WIN on Donald Trump's CELEBRITY APPRENTICE, I thought it would be timely to pick up her books and read them. I wish I could tell you they're not good, but I'd be lying. If you look at everything this woman has accomplished during her lengthy career, it IS pretty amazing. Even selling jewelry on television. AND, of course, she's a survivor, as we learned in her pretty good play that had stagings in both Los Angeles and London. Click here to see James Sims' video piece, during the L.A. run. And click here to see her Barnes & Noble appearance in Manhattan.

Rivers is smart in whom she chooses to partner with, no matter what arena she's entering. In the cases of these two books, she chose right! Her co-author for the murder mystery is Jerrilyn Farmer, who has a legion of fans from her Madeline Bean Murder Mystery series, as well as various television series and being a mystery writing teacher at UCLA. The book is everything you might expect it to be. There's "name-dropping" galore and laughs aplenty! I love the characters of Max and Drew and this is a page-turner. An unexpected surprise. Highly recommended! Joan's co-writer for the "Boob" book is Valerie Frankel, who has published 14 novels, 4 non-fiction titles and a memoir. Her books include THIN IS THE NEW HAPPY and THE BEST YOU'LL EVER HAVE: WHAT EVERY WOMAN NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT GETTING AND GIVING KNOCK-YOUR-SOCKS-OFF SEX … you get the idea. A perfect marriage of talents … and who better than Joan to discuss plastic surgery and "the works?" Lots of good, fun thinking and advice and plenty of "dish-style gossip." As I write this .. I'm actually gonna change my rating from 4 stars to 5. I liked them even more than I remembered .. and just finished it two days ago. Rock on, Joan!

BROADWAY'S MOST WANTED
Tom Shea
Brassey's, Inc.

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup
(1 out of 5)

This is a "curious" little book (paperback, 280 pages, with an endless index!) that landed on my desk somehow, but was published in 2004. It's part of a "Most Wanted" series of other books on other subject matters and claims to contain "fascinating trivia from the past 100 years of musical theater." Well .. I'm not gonna touch that statement. Anyway .. the author/compilist (is that even a word?) seems amicable enough and is a theatre fan from Chicago (the city), born in 1966 … are you getting it? It's thin, a bit misinformed, but, apparently Mr. Shea "is an accomplished singer and actor and has appeared in THE GOLDEN APPLE, LADY IN THE DARK, ONE TOUCH OF VENUS, KNICKERBOCKER HOLIDAY, UTOPIA, LTD., and THE GRAND DUKE." Where????

MAINLY ON DIRECTING - Gypsy, West Side Story, and Other Musicals
Arthur Laurents
Alfred A. Knopf

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup
(5 out of 5)

People will have you believe that Arthur Laurents is brash, rude, egotistical, mean and a myriad of other things. The bottom line is this: The man is a genius – a great writer, an informed historian with a personal point of view, a passionate speaker and communicator and a good director, who's enjoying one of the greatest 3rd Acts in history! His new book is fantastic, as was his earlier autobiography, "Original Story By: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood" (which is now available in paperback). Both are superb reads, but the new one is short, breezy and potent. All I can say is poor Sam Mendes! Do yourself a favor … and get it all "from the horse's mouth!" We need MORE people like Arthur Laurents and, unfortunately, we already lost too many of them. This man is to be thanked and revered. He waitied a long time to get this all out .. and has EARNED THAT RIGHT!

THE SOUND OF BROADWAY MUSIC - A Book of Orchestrators & Orchestrations
Steven Suskin
Oxford University Press

Books, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter RoundupBooks, CDs & DVDs Winter Roundup
(5 out of 5)

This book is a MUST-HAVE … for professionals, theatre fans, libraries … everyone! And it couldn't be published at a better time, when orchestras and the number of players are continually being cut down for economic purposes. Steve Suskin has given us many great books for our personal libraries. He's a low-key, smart, thoroughly investigative writer, who really cares about his subject(s) and often times brings us definitive arguments and points of view. He is a meticulous researcher and this book is just fantastic and shares with us so much information that illuminates how a Broadway Musical sounds the way it does. No "spoilers" here! Do yourself a favor and buy this book .. NOW!




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